NBA icon Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter accident


CBS Sports

A picture of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

Maggie Fitzgerald '20

Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna (13) were among nine people in a helicopter that crashed near Calabasas, California on Sunday, January 26, 2020. The aircraft departed from John Wayne Airport and was traveling to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, where Bryant coached his daughter’s team.

The other victims onboard included pilot Ara Zobayan; John Altobelli, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College; his wife Keri Altobelli; daughter Alyssa Altobelli; girls’ basketball coach Christina Mauser; Sarah Chester; and daughter Payton Chester. Both Alyssa and Payton were teammates with Gianna on their youth basketball team, The Lady Mambas. The group was flying to Mamba Academy for their 12 p.m. game.

Reports from Sheriff Alex Villanueva of Los Angeles County stated the helicopter went down in an area with “very rough terrain.” The Sikorsky S-76 crashed in the hills of Calabasas around 9:45 a.m., sparking a quarter-acre brush fire. It took emergency officials several days to recover the bodies from the tragedy with the location of the crash being dangerous to reach during daylight on the day of the crash. The victims’ bodies have now been released to their families.

The pilot’s last transmission to air traffic control was that he was going to climb higher to avoid a cloud layer. At 9:42 am., an air traffic controller tried to contact the pilot, but received no response after telling the pilot, “You’re still too low level for flight following at this time.” At 9:45 a.m., the helicopter fell off the radar, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. At 9:47 a.m., the first 911 call came in reporting the crash.

Bryant (41) was considered one of the best players in N.B.A. history. He was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After playing high school basketball at Lower Merion in Pennsylvania, he was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets as the youngest NBA player in history: he was only 17. Days later, Bryant was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he began his all-star career. Bryant lead his team to three consecutive NBA championships in 2000-2002, eventually becoming a 5-time NBA champion (2002-2002, 2009, 2010.) His career with the Lakers stretched to 20 seasons, consisting of the 5 championships, 18 All-Star games, and countless MVP awards and recognitions, creating a legacy so powerful that fans would be heard shouting “Kobe!” while shooting a piece of trash into a garbage can, emulating one of Kobe’s free throws. Bryant retired only three years before his death. Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa (37), their daughters Natalia (17), Bianka (3), and Capri (7 months), and his parents.

Several makeshift memorials were created outside the Los Angeles Lakers’ Staples Center and his Lower Merion High School to honor the Lakers legend. Fans left thousands of items at the memorial to pay their respects to Bryant and other victims of the crash. Flowers, jerseys, and an estimated 1,350 basketballs were left outside the arena to honor the late NBA star. The items are being cataloged and will be delivered to the Bryant family at the request of Vanessa Bryant.