Sports stars from around the globe have begun paying tribute to retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant who was killed along with eight others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas California.
Bryant, 41, who was married with four daughters, was an 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships and became one of the greatest players of his generation during a 20-year career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The accident happened on Monday morning (AEDT).
The ABC reported his daughter Gianna, 13, was also on board when the helicopter crashed in steep terrain. They were on their way to a basketball training camp.
The County Sheriff's office confirmed five people died with no survivors.
Hundreds of people have begun gathering outside the home of the LA Lakers, the STAPLES Centre, leaving tributes and flowers, and where, in four hours time, the 62nd Grammy Awards are to be held.
Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, a basketball prodigy who went on to win five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash in California https://t.co/9lxGzVSHLs pic.twitter.com/7oIjDfzST4— Reuters (@Reuters) January 26, 2020
Bryant was considered one of the greatest basketball players of his generation, with one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history. He became one of the game's most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise.
He was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played professionally.
The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O'Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent.
Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as an upstart rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships.
Bryant and Gasol formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and eventually winning two more titles.
He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA's All-Defensive teams.
He teamed with Shaquille O'Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.