RIP Kobe Bryant; NBA Superstar and Lakers Legend Dies in Helicopter Crash

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It all seems just so surreal, and nearly impossible to believe, but we have to accept it- Kobe Bryant is dead the age of 41; perishing Sunday morning in a southern California helicopter clash.

The retired NBA superstar, who was second all-time in scoring until just last night when he was surpassed by Lebron James, died, along with eight others (the pilot and seven other passengers, including his 13-year-old Gigi) when the aircraft crashed into a Calabasas area hill.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76, and it was not known yet what had caused the crash.

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Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, was in heavy fog at the time of the crash, reported to be 10am local.

Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and their other three daughters. He is widely considered to be among the top five players in National Basketball Association history, in the same pantheon as James and Michael Jordan. He won five NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards. He’s also the youngest, at age 34, to surpass the 30,000 points scored plateau.

We interviewed Kobe once, back on December 16, 2009 when the Lakers visited the Bulls. The interview, embedded below, is described and recapped on page 71 of my book “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned from a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant’s basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, California.

A couple of astounding coincidences- James achieved the milestone while playing for the Lakers, his third team, and he did it against the 76ers, the team from Bryant’s home town. Rest in Peace to Kobe Bryant, and our condolences to his family and friends.

Tributes are pouring in from all over the sporting universe, not just the NBA.

“Pacers Sports & Entertainment joins the sports and basketball worlds in mourning the tragic loss of one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter, Gianna,” said club CEO Herb Simon.

“Our sincerest sympathies go to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, and his other daughters, as well as the additional victims and their families.”

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“Kobe defined dedication, excellence and commitment throughout his stellar career and he will be greatly missed. This is a sad day for us all.”

“The Detroit Pistons organization joins the entire NBA family in expressing our sorrow regarding the unexpected passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other victims of today’s tragedy,” reads a statement from the club.

“Kobe entertained and embraced fans in every arena he touched, and he will be remembered by Detroit Pistons’ fans for the memorable moments he delivered each year at The Palace throughout his 20-year NBA career as well as his lasting impact on the game of basketball both on and off the court.”

“We extend our thoughts and condolences to the Bryant family, the Los Angeles Lakers organization and everyone in the NBA during this most difficult time.”

Bryant teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal to win three NBA titles with the Lakers, despite the two having a notoriously tumultuous relationship.

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There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of loosing my niece Gigi & my brother (at)KobeBryant,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter.

“I’m sick right now.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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Comments

  1. Fredrick Johnson says

    When I first heard the new that Koby Bryant died, I was lost for words. However I Express my deepest
    CONDOLENCES to the family of Kobe Bryant. Kobe will forever be a legend on and off the court .
    In our hearts and thoughts he will always be no.1
    My prayers goes out 5he the family, friends and
    Fans. He will always be the miss in a bless and loving way, because of what he accomplish, and
    Who he was in all of our lives. He was a wonderful father and a world great’s great leader. Thank you Kobe for the many years of your time and talent.

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