According to a tweet from ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, the basketball legend was heading to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a travel basketball game with his daughter when his helicopter crashed. When asked if there were "nine bodies there at the scene," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded, "that is our belief, yes."
An investigation continues to find the cause of the crash, however, the dense fog which grounded most planes in the area was a factor. According to The U.S. Sun, moments before the plane flew into a mountain the pilot, who was reportedly flying visually, received a warning from air traffic control that he was flying "too low." While getting further instructions to navigate the terrain, contact was lost.
Also onboard the plane were girls' basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, Orange Coast College baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa Altobelli, and pilot Ara Zobayan. There were no survivors.
The Inquisitr confirmed with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's media relations department that they received a call reporting a downed aircraft at 10:01 a.m. local time on Las Virgenes Road and that deputies from the Calabasas/Lost Hills substation responded.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department initially acknowledged the reports of "a certain individual" being among the deceased but would not confirm those reports.
Kobe began his career in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers when he was just 17-years-old, after being traded to them by the Charlotte Hornets who nabbed him as a draft pick. The first-ever guard to be drafted right out of high school, he needed his parents to co-sign his $3.5 million contract since he hadn't turned 18 yet.
At the age of 18, he became the youngest person ever to play in the NBA, as well as the youngest starter getting just 3 minutes playing time per game. His playtime slowly increased, as did his popularity. The 1997 Slam Dunk Contest locked him in as a fan-favorite.
As a rookie, side-by-side with Shaquille O'Neill, he brought the Lakers to three NBA championships. Kobe would bring the team to win without O'Neill twice more in 2009 and 2010.
Kobe was named Most Valuable Player in 2008, an All-Star 18 times, and was part of the All-NBA Team 15 times.He is also an Olympic gold medalist. As a member of the U.S. national team in 2008, Kobe played with Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and more on the "Redeem Team" and helped take down China in the final game, leaving the team with zero losses. In 2012, he earned another gold medal, helping the U.S. team stay undefeated on the world stage.
Kobe's long list of achievements also includes an Academy Award. In 2017, the animation of his poem, "Dear Basketball," which was penned for his retirement, won the Oscar for Best Animated Short.
The basketball legend set records his entire career including being the youngest player to hit 30,000 career points. Last night, LeBron James beat him on the scoreboard, bumping him down to No. 4 in career points, according to USA Today. His last tweet showed how much he loved the game and the people who play it.After 20 years of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant retired after suffering career-ending injuries to his shoulder and knee in the two years following a tear in his Achilles tendon, for which he was sidelined with in 2013.
When he retired, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called him "one of the greatest players in the history of our game," according to the New York Times.
Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa and their three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka and newborn baby Capri.