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Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant And Daughter Gianna Die In Helicopter Crash

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after winning over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
NBAE via Getty Images
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after winning over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Updated at 8:23 p.m. ET

Basketball star Kobe Bryant was killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, the city's mayor confirmed to NPR. Bryant was 41.

Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years and is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in the 2007-2008 season and is fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters there were nine people killed in the crash, including one pilot and eight passengers.

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said following the news. "... But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna."

"There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now," Bryant's longtime Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal wrote on Twitter.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played on the Lakers for 14 seasons in the 1970s and 1980s and is one of just three people to have scored more points than Bryant said, "I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete."

Abdul-Jabbar called Bryant "an incredible family man," who "inspired a whole generation of young athletes."

A native of Philadelphia, Bryant was drafted into the NBA from high school at age 17 and stayed with the Lakers for his whole career — joining what ESPN called "an exclusive club" of players to spend two decades with the same team.

He won consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 — and then again in 2009 and 2010.

Injuries held him back in the final years of his career, with a tear of his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2013 season, followed by a knee injury and rotator cuff surgery. When he announced his retirement in November 2015, "it wasn't a shock," as NPR characterized it. To mark the occasion, Bryant wrote a poem, which begins:
"Dear Basketball, From the moment I started rolling my dad's tube socks And shooting imaginary Game-winning shots In the Great Western Forum I knew one thing was real: I fell in love with you. A love so deep I gave you my all — From my mind & body To my spirit & soul."
Bryant faced controversy in 2003, when a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of raping her. He was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment. The accuser faced intense scrutiny from the media and a campaign from Bryant's defense team to discredit her. The criminal case ended in 2004 after she decided to not participate in the trial.

Bryant and the accuser settled a civil lawsuit out of court in 2005 with no admission of guilt. He released a statement saying he believed the encounter was consensual, "but I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did."

Bryant retired in 2016. He was married to Vanessa Bryant, and the two were parents to four daughters.

NPR's Bobby Allyn contributed reporting.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.

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