We are shocked to learn that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles suburb Calabasas on Sunday morning (1/26). He was 41. The news first broke on TMZ and it's also been confirmed to Variety, ESPN, and others.
UPDATE: TMZ is also now reporting that reps for Kobe tell them Kobe's 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore (aka Gigi) was also killed in the crash. She was 13. TMZ was told they were on their way to basketball practice for Gigi when the crash occurred.
UPDATE 2: TMZ is now reporting that officials say they believe 9 people were on board, including one pilot, and that there were no survivors. Other passengers included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and girls basketball coach Christina Mauser.
L.A. weather was extremely foggy Sunday morning, and law enforcement sources tell us even LAPD air support was grounded because of it. Flight tracker data shows Kobe's chopper appeared to first encounter weather issues as it was above the L.A. Zoo. It circled that area at least 6 times at a very low altitude -- around 875 feet -- perhaps waiting for the fog to clear.
We know the pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank Airport around 9:30 AM PT, and the tower was aware the pilot had been circling for about 15 minutes. The pilot eventually headed north along the 118 freeway before turning to the west, and started following above the 101 freeway around Woodland Hills, CA.
At around 9:40 AM they encounter more weather -- as in seriously heavy fog -- and the chopper turned south. This was critical, because they turned toward a mountainous area. The pilot suddenly and rapidly climbed from about 1200 feet up to 2000 feet.
However, moments later -- around 9:45 AM -- they flew into a mountain at 1700 feet. Flight tracker data shows they were flying at about 161 knots.
[...] Kobe Bryant died in a helicoper crash in Calabasas Sunday morning ... TMZ Sports has confirmed.
Kobe was traveling with at least 3 other people in his private helicopter when it went down. A fire broke out. Emergency personnel responded, but nobody on board survived. 5 people are confirmed dead. We're told Vanessa Bryant was not among those on board.
Eyewitnesses also tell us that they heard the helicopter's engine sputtering before it went down. As you can see, flames and smoke covered much of the scene from the wreck. The official cause of the crash is currently under investigation.
Kobe has famously used a helicopter to travel for years -- dating back to when he played for the Lakers. He was known for commuting from Newport Beach, CA to the STAPLES Center in DTLA in his Sikorsky S-76 chopper.
KB is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they have four daughters -- Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.
The news comes one day after Kobe was passed by Lebron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. This story is still developing.
Tons of people are already paying tribute to Kobe, including tons of musicians. See tributes below from Barack Obama, Shaq, Michael Jordan, Kanye West, Brian Wilson, Drake, Flea, Ryley Walker, The 1975's Matty Healy, Missy Elliott, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Wu-Tang Clan, Cardi B, Killer Mike, Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah, Taylor Swift, Vince Staples, Liz Phair, Meek Mill, Swae Lee, Gucci Mane, Black Milk, Rick Ross, Zola Jesus, and more...
Michael Jordan wrote, "I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe -- he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply -- and took great pride in daughter's love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in send my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world."
Fans have also gathered outside the Staples Center to mourn Kobe: