Basketball legend Kobe Bryant dies aged 41

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash, according to reports.

The point guard, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, died alongside four others in the crash in California on Sunday morning, officials have said.

The identity of the other victims was not released.

Bryant, who also won two Olympic gold medals, played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career before retiring in 2016.

Having announced his plans to retire in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant “one of the greatest players in the history of our game”.

He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, was Finals MVP on two occasions and was an 18-time All-Star.

Bryant – who was born in Philadelphia in 1978 – was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.

Bryant won five championships with the LA Lakers and was named an All-Star on 18 occasions.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant’s shirt numbers – eight and 24 – in a ceremony in December 2017, when then franchise president Magic Johnson said: “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold.”

He stood third in the all-time NBA points list until Saturday night, when current Laker LeBron James pushed him down to fourth place.

James had told NBA.com after the game: “I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play.”

First responders put out the flames of the crash site, Los Angeles County Sheriff said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.

Bryant, 41, was known to use a helicopter for travel dating to his days as a player for the Lakers, when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper, the celebrity news website TMZ said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.

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