CALABASAS, Calif. (Reuters) – Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players and an athlete of global renown, was killed at age 41 on Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven on board, officials said.
Bryant rocketed to fame as an 18-year-old rookie and played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers, 18 as an all-star forward, and won five NBA championships.
His death sent shockwaves through the National Basketball Association, which he helped propel to international prominence, and stunned fans around the world.
The cause of the crash was unknown, and an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board could take months.
Bryant was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area’s notorious traffic.
His Sikorsky S-76 craft went down in low clouds and foggy weather shortly before 10 a.m. (1800 GMT) in hilly terrain just outside Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of central Los Angeles, sparking a brush fire, officials said.
“There were no survivors,” county sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, saying the flight manifest showed nine people on board. He declined to identify them.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among those killed, and sent condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa.
“He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game, with accomplishments that are legendary,” Silver said, as tributes poured in from players, politicians and entertainers.
The fire and debris field from the crash spread over a quarter-acre of steep terrain in the grass-covered foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Others on board besides the pilot were a teammate from Bryant’s daughter’s basketball squad and a parent of the teammate, NBC News reported.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was also one of the victims, the Orange County Register said, citing assistant coach Ron La Ruffa.
Weather was likely to figure prominently in the crash investigation. Fog in the area was so bad that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopter fleet on Sunday morning, the Los Angeles Times and CNN reported.