Kobe Bryant Death Hoax Rumors Circulate As 'TMZ' Site Goes Down

Nicholas Morine

As reports begin to accumulate regarding the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the organization responsible for breaking the news -- TMZ, the source of most current reportage on the matter -- has seen their site crash under a proclamation of "technical difficulties." As emotions continue to ride high over this tragic event, one which has shaken the sports world and Bryant's millions of fans and supporters, many social media users have come forward with wishes -- and in some cases, beliefs -- that this could all be a hoax.

"Please tell me this Kobe Bryant news (reported by TMZ) is a hoax," one distraught fan wrote in a brief but pointed tweet.

"Hopefully a hoax, but a ton of sources, including a few credible ones, saying Kobe Bryant killed in a helicopter crash. Haven't seen anything on ESPN or major sports networks," a second user remarked, likely awaiting further confirmation of the reported tragedy.

"I'm just as shocked as you are and I still think it's a hoax typing this, but, RIP Kobe Bryant," another Twitter user wrote, seemingly remaining skeptical.

"Just saw on Italian news that Kobe Bryant has passed.... I don't want to believe this. Tell me this is a hoax..." expressed a fourth supporter.

The Inquisitr confirmed with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's media relations division 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. When asked if there were "nine bodies there at the scene," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded, "that is our belief, yes."

L.A. County Sheriff's acknowledged the reports of "a certain individual" being among the deceased but would not confirm those reports.

As Politifact points out, actor Will Smith was the target of one such widespread death hoax, internet rumors having suggested that he -- and his son, Jayden -- had been killed in a car accident. The phenomenon may have become much more common with the advent of the internet and social media -- particularly given the velocity of information shared via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- but also predates these mechanisms, as The Wrap details. Adam Sandler, Betty White, Cher, Jack Black, and Chevy Chase have all been the focus of such claims in the past, none of these allegations having been true.