Basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California, at the age of 41. All 9 people onboard were killed, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna as well as another parent and a teammate from Gianna's travel sports team.
Bryant leaves behind a wife, Vanessa, and three surviving daughters - Natalia, Bianka and Capri, who was born last year.
Bryant, a basketball icon spent his entire 20 years as a basketball professional with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA Championships with the team.
"The NBA family is devastated," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, with Los Angeles Mayor Mayor Eric Garcetti saying he "will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes."
Bryant was mentioned at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, which was held at the Staples Centre in LA - the home of the Lakers. Singer Lizzo dedicated the night to him before opening the show with a two-song performance. His two retired basketball jerseys were illuminated.
"We're all feeling crazy sadness right now," host Alicia Keys said, before singing a song in Bryant's honor. "We're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."
Bryant made a name for himself with the LA Lakers, which had boasted of legends like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, almost immediately.
Standing at 6-foot-6, Bryant entered the NBA right out of high school in 1996. During his 20-year pro career he won 5 NBA titles, two gold medals in the Olympics, two NBA Finals MVPs and a regular season MVP in 2008. He led the league in scoring twice and retired with 33,643 points - third on the league's all-time scoring list until he was passed just this weekend by LeBron James. His two jerseys for the Lakers, No. 8 and No. 24, were both retired.
Born Kobe Bean Bryant in Philadelphia on August 23, 1978, Bryant was the son of a professional basketball player. Bryant started playing basketball at the age of 3. When Bryant was six, his father retired from the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball at a lower level. Fluent in Italian, Bryant returned to the United States in 1991, and starred as a high schooler for Philadelphia's Lower Merion High School.
He was drafted 13th overall in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him to the Lakers, which would become his home for the next 20 years.
Paired with Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal for the LA Lakers, Bryant won his first NBA title in 2000. Nicknamed the ‘Black Mamba,’ he won NBA championships with the Lakers in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. He won the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2008, and was named to the NBA All-Star team 18 times.
In 2005, he famously scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors, the closest any player before or since had come to Wilt Chamberlain's record 100.
Bryant retired in 2016 after playing 1,346 regular season games and averaging 25 points a game, twice leading the league in scoring. He earned over USD 300 million on the court during his career. His career points total of 33,643 is fourth on the all-time NBA list.
Life after basketball
Bryant began investing long before he retired from the NBA. Among his most successful investments was an early stake in the sports drink-maker BodyArmor. Bloomberg reports that Bryant put USD 6 million into the company in 2014, a stake that was worth an estimated USD 200 million after Coca-Cola took a majority stake in BodyArmor four years later.
In 2013 he co-founded Bryant Stibel, a venture capital firm, with Jeff Stibel. The firm has invested in more than two dozen companies, including video game publisher Epic Games, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.com, Cholula hot sauce, and athlete-centered media platform the Players Tribune.
He also launched a production company called Kobe Studios. In 2018, Bryant won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film Dear Basketball.
His biggest endorsement partnership was with Nike, which began in 2003. Nike released more than 10 signature Kobe shoes. "He was one of the greatest athletes of his generation and has had an immeasurable impact on the world of sport and the community of basketball," the company said in a statement.
Bryant’s career was not without controversy. In 2003, he was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee. Bryant maintained that the encounter was consensual and eventually the criminal charges were dropped after the accuser refused to testify in court. She filed a civil suit against the basketball player, which was settled out of court. Bryant eventually apologised for his ‘adulterous encounter’ but did not admit guilt.