Kobe Bryant dies at 41
Shaquille O'Neal mourned the death of his former Lakers teammate today on Twitter where he said "there's no words to express the pain I'm going through."
O'Neal played on the Lakers from 1996-2004 and won three championships with the team.
O'Neal expanded on his thoughts on Bryant more in a later post on Instagram.
"Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man," O'Neal wrote. "That was what we had most in common."
Dozens of fans descended on Los Angeles' Staples Center today to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant in front of a small memorial.
Bryant was a Lakers legend who played on the team for 20 years. He won five NBA championships with the team.
Kobe Bryant's alma mater, Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, issued a statement Sunday about his death.
“This is a difficult day for everyone in our school community. The Lower Marion School District is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of our most illustrious alumni Kobe Bryant. Mr. Bryant’s connection to Lower Merion High School where he played basketball prior to joining the NBA has raised the profile of our high school and our district throughout the world. Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to his alma mater including his dedication of our Kobe Bryant gymnasium and his support of our girls and boys basketball teams,” said Amy Buckman, school spokeswoman.
Gregg Downer, the school's head basketball coach, coached Bryant from 1992 to 1996. Bryant led the team to the 1996 state championship, Buckman said.
"Mr. Downer said he was completely shocked and devastated today upon hearing the news, adding that Aces nation has lost its heartbeat," Buckman said.
The National Basketball Players Association released a statement on Kobe Bryant's death today:
"We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family," the league said.
Kobe Bryant’s daughter 13-year-old Gianna Maria Onore Bryant was also killed on the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California, today, according to a source with knowledge of the situation who corresponded with CNN.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his partner, Jennifer, called the death of Kobe Bryant “tragic and untimely."
“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 couple said in a statement. “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.”
They ended the statement by saying: “Our deepest condolences go to his wife."
Kobe Bryant was a NBA fixture and legend who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for all 20 years of his career.
Here are some other facts about Bryant:
- He entered the NBA straight out of high school.
- In 1996, Bryant was the youngest player in NBA history at that time, at 18 years, 2 months and 11 days.
- Bryant has two Olympic gold medals for men's basketball.
- He has won five NBA championships.
In 2011, Kobe Bryant became the first professional athlete who was not an actor to have his hand and footprints enshrined at Hollywood's historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Crowds and attendees cheered during the ceremony for the beloved NBA superstar and Olympic athlete.
After being introduced by late-night host and master of ceremony Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant spoke about the honor being paid him which he said he never imagined in his "wildest dreams."
"I just feel extremely honored to be able to do this," Bryant said. "It's never something I ever actually thought about."
The court is where he became a legend, but Bryant -- who at the age of 41 was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash Sunday on a hillside in Calabasas, California -- also left his mark on Hollywood.
In 2018, he notched another first after he became the only athlete to ever win a basketball championship and an Academy Award.
Bryant, who retired from playing professional basketball in 2016, won an Oscar for best animated short for "Dear Basketball," which was based on a poem he wrote.
He worked with animator Glen Keane and Oscar-winning composer John Williams on the project, which was about him as a young boy dreaming about becoming a basketball player.
"It was pretty surreal to see myself animated," Bryant told The New York Times after the short was nominated. "I once dreamed of having a signature Nike shoe, but I never thought I'd be animated by Glen Keane -- that pretty much tops everything!"
Bryant also had a brief flirtation with a music career, including a planned 2000 debut rap album which was never released.
His single, "K.O.B.E." featured model and actress Tyra Banks.
On Sunday, rapper Drake was one of several celebrities paying tribute to Bryant.
"It can't be," Drake wrote in the caption of a photo, which contained the words "Farewell Mamba" which was Bryant's nickname.
Watch Bryant's acceptance speech from 2018 below:
The helicopter involved in the crash today that killed Kobe Bryant was a Sikorsky S-76, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The tail number matches a helicopter Bryant has owned for years. The chopper was adorned with his logo.
In 2010, GQ magazine wrote about how Bryant regularly took his own helicopter to work:
"He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives... to every home game. It's a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz... But Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It's no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can't sit in a car for two hours." The helicopter "Ensures that he gets to staples center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court."
The following footage was taken from the crash site today: