Basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died at age 41. The news was first reported by TMZ and has been confirmed by multiple media outlets. Bryant was a close friend (and business adviser) to Michael Phelps and made several appearances at major swimming events, including at the 2017 Golden Goggles Awards, USA Swimming’s annual awards banquet, and the 2018 US National Championships in Irvine. Five people are confirmed dead in the crash.
Update: the LA Sheriff’s department announced that there were nine people in the helicopter, not the originally-reported five. None of the passengers or the pilot survived.
LIVE: Press Conference with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department:
Update: TMZ is also now reporting that representatives for Kobe have confirmed that one of his 4 daughters, Gianna Maria Onore, aka GiGi, was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash. She was 13. Kobe recently credited GiGi’s interest in the game as bringing him back to the sport of basketball. The pair were on the way to a basketball practice at the Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks when the helicopter crashed.
Kobe Bryant tries to coax Michael Phelps out of retirement at USA Swimming's Golden Goggles last night. pic.twitter.com/23KZsICBaF
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) November 20, 2017
Bryant has had several interludes with the sport of swimming. He once made a visit to Australia where he spent time with Stephanie Rice and members of the Australian Olympic Team. He once famously lauded 3-time Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice, saying “I was lucky…I had the chance to see the best in the world prepare and she is FOCUSED.”
Bryant was a 5-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, the 2008 NBA MVP, an 18-time NBA All-Star, and is the 4th-leading scorer in NBA history, recently being surpassed by Lebron James. Bryant was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist as a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team in 2008 and 2012. He also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film Dear Basketball.
The 41-year old Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016. He and his wife, Vanessa, gave birth to their 4th daughter in June of 2019.
Several swimmers have already posted tributes on social media, with more to come throughout the day. In France, the public is drawing comparisons to several French sportspeople who have died in helicopter crashes, including Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat, who won gold, silver, and bronze medals at the 2012 Olympic Games. She died in a helicopter crash while filming a reality television show. Also on board that flight were boxer Alexis Vastine and sailor Florence Arthaud.
Truly sad. Rest In Peace, Kobe. Your legacy lives on forever. 🙏🏾 Prayers to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/OAoushUCAV
— Simone Manuel (@swimone) January 26, 2020
Wow. RIP Kobe. Reminiscent of Camille Muffat dying in a helicopter in 2015. Very scary. Hard to believe.
— Braden Keith (@Braden_Keith) January 26, 2020
A true inspiration to athletes in all sports. His work ethic and passion was unmatched. RIP pic.twitter.com/FTeOtXG29K
— Jason Lezak (@JasonLezak) January 26, 2020
In total shock rn 💔 https://t.co/LxTSoo70rX
— Femke Heemskerk (@FemkeHeemskerk) January 26, 2020