Wed, 26 Feb 2020

US Basketball Superstar Kobe Bryant Killed in Helicopter Crash

Voice of America
27 Jan 2020, 10:35 GMT+10

Sports fans around the world are struggling to find words to describe how they feel about the sudden death of retired U.S. basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in the hills outside Los Angeles. They reportedly were on their way to a basketball tournament for youngsters.

Bryant was known to use a helicopter from his home to games in Los Angeles to avoid the city's notoriously bad traffic.

The Los Angeles County sheriff's department says the investigation is ongoing with federal officials helping, but have so far given no information on what caused the crash, including whether foggy conditions Sunday morning played a part.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva refused to identify any of the victims, saying his office will wait until the coroners do their job. He called it "wholly inappropriate" that the entertainment news website TMZ reported the deaths before authorities could inform the families.

Kobe Bryant was 41 years-old.

In an uncharacteristically brief tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump called it "terrible news."

Former President Barack Obama, a well-known basketball fan, tweeted that Bryant was "just getting started in what would have been just as a meaningful second act" to follow his basketball career.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the man who scored more points than anyone else in NBA history, calls Bryant "a man who was much more than an athlete."

Another NBA great, Shaquille O'Neill, tweeted "I'm sick right now."

Stars from other sports - including football's Tom Brady and hockey's Wayne Gretzky -- are also expressing shock. Fans at the NFL's Pro-Bowl game chanted "Kobe....Kobe" as the news spread throughout the stands.

Sobs were heard as moments of silence were held at NBA games across the country Sunday, but the league decided not to cancel any contests.

Players with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors declined to take any shots, deliberately violating the game's 24 second shot clock in honor of Bryant, who wore the number 24 on his jersey.

Bryant has gone down in history as one of the greatest professional basketball players ever to step onto the court. He spent nearly his entire pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers -- wining five NBA championships and the league's Most Valuable Player award in 2008. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer. LeBron James passed him for number three on the list just one day earlier. Bryant tweeted his congratulations to James.

A native of Philadelphia, Bryant spent much of his youth in Italy where his father played pro basketball after his own career in the NBA.

Unlike many NBA stars, Bryant skipped a college career after returning to the U.S. and was drafted straight out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 before being traded to the Lakers.

Some of Bryant's accomplishments throughout his 20-year NBA career include becoming the NBA's youngest all-star in 1998, when he was only 19 years old; an 81-point game in 2006 - the second-highest of all time; and Olympic Gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

After announcing his retirement because of injuries, Bryant scored an amazing 60 points in his final pro game in 2016.

His 2017 poem in which he bade farewell to the Lakers, "Dear Basketball," was turned into an animated cartoon. Bryant surprised the audience when he stepped onto the stage to accept the 2018 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Bryant's life was not without its share of controversy. A female hotel worker accused him of rape in 2003. A court dismissed the charge, but Bryant pleaded guilty to adultery and settled a civil suit by the woman.

His post NBA career included setting up a charitable foundation and running a summer basketball camp for kids.

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