LOS ANGELES - The sports world, particularly the NBA and the broader basketball community, is shocked at the news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old, daughter Gianna are among those killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday.
Nine people have died in the crash which occurred on a hillside in Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 kilometres) northwest of central Los Angeles, around 9:45am local time on Sunday.
"A S-76 helicopter crashed this morning under unknown circumstances near Calabasas, California," the FAA said in a statement on Sunday. "The FAA and NTSB swill investigate," the statement added. Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva later confirmed an FAA team is already on the scene. He said nine bodies had been located at the crash site. Earlier reports had said 5 people were on board.
Officials refused to identify who was on board, subject to the Coroner examining the remains and confirming who had perished, and then for next-of-kin to be officially notified. "It'd be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one was perished and you learned about it from TMZ," Villanueva said. "That is just wholly inappropriate, so we're not gonna be going there. We're gonna wait until the coroner does their job."
It has been confirmed however that Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were two of the nine occupants which included the pilot.
The Orange County Register is reporting that Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli 56, and his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa, were also among the victims, quoting OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa
Bryant, who was reportedly on his way to a junior tournament to coach his daughter's team at Mamba Sports Academy at Thousand Oaks, played in five NBA Championships won by the Los Angeles Lakers.
"The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday. "For twenty seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary:five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections,and two Olympic gold medals.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," the commissioner said.
Tributes Sunday were pouring in from the sporting and and community divide.
"We mourn the tragic and untimely death of a California icon and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant. In his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he made history with raw talent and unparalleled dedication that raised the bar and paved the way for a newer generation of players," the California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his partner Jennifer said in a statement on Sunday. "Despite winning five NBA championships and two gold Olympic medals, and achieving countless accolades in the athletics world, he also helped improve the lives of youth and families through the Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, and was an outspoken advocate for combating homelessness through partnerships with organizations such as My Friend's Place and Step Up on Second."
"That is terrible news," U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet.
"Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court, and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes. This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe's entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief," the LA mayor added.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama said: "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
One of the most impassioned tributes came from another great Magic Johnson, who posted a series of tweets.
"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. Im in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken," Magic Johnson posted.
"I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court."
"My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. Its hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players," he said.
"He gave his knowledge, time, and talent to tutor so many at the youth level, collegiate level, & NBA & WNBA players. Words cant express the impact that he had on the game of basketball. I know basketball fans all over the world will miss him, especially the City of Los Angeles."
"He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughters basketball team brought him so much happiness," Magic Johnson said in his series of tweets.
"Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball. We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much."
"Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe. Cookie & I are praying for Vanessa, his beautiful daughters Natalia, Bianka & Capri, as well as his parents Joe & Pam & his sisters. We will always be here for the Bryant family," Johnson said.
"We love you forever. #8 #24"