The world continues to mourn the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, Calif., near Los Angeles. Bryant was 41.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told reporters there were a total of nine people — eight passengers and a pilot — on board the helicopter when it crashed, including Bryant, a graduate of Lower Merion High School who won five NBA championships during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Officials said the helicopter crashed into a hillside and burst into flames amid foggy conditions just before 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. Eastern), and the crash caused a brush fire that made it difficult for firefighters and other emergency workers to get to the helicopter. According to Daryl Osby, the fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, there were no survivors.
Bryant and his daughter were headed to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Kobe was expected to coach and Gianna was expected to play, Lady Mavericks team director Evelyn Morales told CNN. Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, married in 2001 and have four children.
Also among the reported victims were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife, Keri; and his daughter, Alyssa, who was a teammate on Gianna’s Mamba Academy basketball team. Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at a private Orange County elementary school, was also a passenger on the helicopter when it crashed.
The identities of the three remaining victims, including the pilot, remain unknown.
Here are the latest updates:
Seven of the nine people aboard the helicopter when it crashed have been publicly identified. In addition to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, they are:
John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli
Altobelli, the longtime baseball coach of the Orange Coast College Pirates, and his wife, Keri, were onboard the helicopter with their 13-tear-old daughter, Alyssa, who was a teammate on Gianna’s Mamba Academy basketball team.
“He treated every player like his own son,” Justin Brodt, a sophomore first baseman at OCC, said at the baseball field on Sunday, according to the Orange County Register. “He wanted the best for everybody involved. That’s what made him such a successful coach and such a great guy.”
Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at a private Orange County elementary school, was the Mamba girls basketball team’s top assistant coach.
“My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much,” Matt Mauser, Christina’s husband, wrote on Facebook.
Zobayan was the pilot flying Bryant’s helicopter when it crashed on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles times and KTLA, a local NBC affiliate.
Darren Kemp, a flight student who trained under Zobayan, told the Los Angeles Times he was a dedicated, caring instructor who only wanted the best for his students. KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci, who is also a licensed pilot, offered a tribute to Zobayan on social media.
The first time Bryant’s name was mentioned in either the Philadelphia Daily News or The Inquirer was in an Inquirer basketball preview from December 1992. Bryant was an incoming freshman to Lower Merion High School, and he was mentioned twice.
“Remember this name: Kobe Bryant. The 6-4, 14-year-old freshman and son of Joe Bryant, a former star at La Salle, will not only play on the varsity, he will start. ‘He’s a very talented player," [Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer] Downer said. “He has the ability to do everything well, and he has phenomenal range on his jumper.’”
Signe Wilkinson, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, penned this tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
As Lower Merion High School students arrived Monday morning, they walked past a growing makeshift memorial to Bryant that had formed outside the Bryant Gymnasium, named after the NBA superstar.
Among the items laid in front of the school were piles of flowers, cards, candles, sneakers, a hoagie, and basketballs with “RIP” written in marker. Also laying among the memorabilia were basketball jerseys, including a Kobe Bryant Lower Merion High School Jersey — No. 33. Bryant has before said he wanted to wear No. 33 when he played for the Lakers, but the number had already been retired in honor of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
— Anna Orso
During a Sunday evening press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the investigation and recovery of victims could take days due to the location of the helicopter accident.
“It’s a logistical nightmare because the crash site itself is not easily accessible,” Villanueva told reporters, adding the mourners and well-wishers descending on the area are complicating recovery efforts.
Chief medical examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas said once the victims’ bodies are recovered, his office can work to identify them and notify their families.
“We’re doing everything we can to confirm identifications and give closure to the families involved,” Lucas said.
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to the Los Angeles Times it grounded its helicopters Sunday morning due to foggy conditions.
“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein told the Times.
Rubenstein said the LAPD requires a minimum of two miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling for all flights. He added that when conditions allow, the LAPD typically has two helicopters in the air — one in the San Fernando Valley and one in the L.A. Basin.
Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points in a win over the Orlando Magic Sunday night. Following the game, Leonard told Fox Sports that Bryant would’ve appreciated the effort he showed on the court.
“Knowing him personally, I know he’d want me to come out here and ball and just be great,” Leonard said. “Everybody’s sad. No words can explain the impact he had on the sport.”
Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at the Harbor Day School in Orange County, was identified by her husband as one of the victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash.
“My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much,” Matt Mauser wrote on Facebook.
“This devastating tragedy gets worse by the hour,” Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley wrote after being informed of Mauser’s death.
Though Bryant played for the Lakers his entire 20-season career, the Dallas Mavericks will retire the No. 24 jersey in tribute to the former NBA superstar.
Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men offered a touching tribute to Bryant during the Grammy Awards, singing an emotional version of "It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
“We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built," Keys said of the Staples Center, the Lakers’ home court and location for Sunday’s Grammy’s.
Lizzo opened the Grammy’s telecast with a tribute to the former NBA superstar, declaring, “Tonight is for Kobe” as the R&B star launched into her song “Cuz I Love You.”
Knicks play-by-play announcer Mike Breen was emotional during the start of the team’s home matchup against the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night on the MSG Network.
“I just don’t feel like broadcasting. I know a lot of the players don’t feel like playing. It’s just a sad, sad day," Breen said.
Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA Hall of Famer and Bryant’s longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal, shared an Instagram exchange he said he had with Bryant on Sunday morning, prior to the crash.
Shareef played in 13 games for UCLA this season, but announced last week he was leaving the university. Shaq shared his own tribute to Bryant earlier Sunday afternoon.
In downtown Los Angeles, fans gathered with flowers, signs, and other memorabilia outside the Staples Center to mourn the loss of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
Lakers superstar LeBron James was in tears Sunday afternoon when he exited the team’s plane following the news of Bryant’s death. The Lakers were traveling from Philadelphia following a game against the Sixers, in which James overtook Bryant as the No. 3 all-time scorer in NBA history.
In the Philadelphia region, fans and young athletes are reeling from the death of Bryant, whose name graces the gymnasium at his alma mater, Lower Merion High School.
“He was just an all-around great character,” said Romeire Brown, who laid flowers outside the school Sunday in memory of the 1996 graduate. “We lost another one of our own.”
Lower Merion schools spokesperson Amy Buckman called him “one of our most illustrious alumni” and noted his “ongoing generosity” to the district.
And aspiring basketball stars throughout the area were mourning the passing of an idol.
“I almost cried,” Archbishop Wood junior Jaylen Stinson said. "He was one of the main reasons I started playing basketball. That was my favorite player.”
National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy told reporters they have dispatched investigators to the scene of the crash.
“Our team will be looking at the history of the pilot and whatever crew was on board, maintenance records of the helicopter, records of the owner and operator of the helicopter, and a number of other things we look for as part of the investigation,” Homendy said.
Sixers players and coaches were stunned by the death of the local legend.
“It is difficult to find words to express the passing of Kobe Bryant,” coach Brett Brown told the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. As Australia’s national team coach, Brown had faced off against Bryant and his U.S. teammates in the 2012 London Olympics.
Many Sixers players took to social media to express their sadness and disbelief. “Nahh, this can’t be real man,” Josh Richardson wrote on Twitter.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was among the passengers killed in the helicopter crash, assistant coach Ron La Ruffa confirmed to the Los Angeles Daily News. Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and his daughter, Alyssa, were also aboard the helicopter when it crashed, Altobelli’s brother Tony Altobelli told CNN.
Alyssa and Gianna were teammates on their Mamba Academy basketball team.
Altobelli, the American Baseball Coaches Association’s national coach of the year last year, was entering his 24th season as the Pirates’ head coach.
Mets infielder Jeff McNeil, who played for Altobelli, told ESPN the longtime coach was "one of the main reasons I’m still playing professional baseball.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters during a Sunday afternoon press conference that nine people — eight passengers and a pilot — were aboard the helicopter when it crashed Sunday morning. Daryl Osby, the fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said there were no survivors.
So far, none of the other victims have been officially identified, and Villanueva said it would be inappropriate to do so until the coroner’s office notified the next of kin.
“It’d be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one was perished and you learned about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said.
The officials did not speculate on what caused the helicopter to crash.
NBA superstar turned TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal, who won three championships alongside Bryant with the Lakers, where he played from 1996 to 2004, mourned the death of his former teammate on social media.
Former President Barack Obama offered his condolences on Twitter, calling the death of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, “heartbreaking.”
The Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs memorialized Bryant by letting the 24-second shot-clock run out on the first possession of the game Sunday afternoon.
The NBA reportedly weighed the decision to cancel games in wake of the tragic news, but Sunday’s slate of eight games will go forward as scheduled. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Sixers on Saturday, and won’t play again until Tuesday, when they face the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also tweeted his condolences Sunday afternoon. Here’s a translation of his tweet, courtesy of CNN:
Bryant, a 41-year-old Philadelphia native, went from Lower Merion High School to the NBA in 1996 and became one of the great stars in the sport’s history. He won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played his entire 20-season pro career, including against the 76ers in 2001. He was the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player, a 15-time All-Star and a two-time scoring champion.
James recalled listening to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.
“I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” James said. “There’s no substitution for work ... He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.”
Former NBA player turned ESPN analyst Jay Williams was in tears speaking about Bryant on ESPN2.
“I don’t know how to define the greatest in his legacy. It’s one of those things that can’t be put into words... It was this aura he had around him,” Williams said. "It was greatness, man. I can’t explain greatness.”
Bryant went from Lower Merion High School to the NBA in 1996 on his way to becoming one of basketball’s all-time greats.
He won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played his entire 20-season pro career, including against the 76ers in 2001. He was the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player, a 15-time All-Star and a two-time scoring champion.
At Lower Merion, Bryant was a varsity player as a freshman. He eventually scored 2,883 points, an all-time Southeastern Pennsylvania record. In 1996, he led Lower Merion to a state title. The Aces won 30 straight games, finishing 31-3 in their first state-championship season in 50 years. The gym at Lower Merion is now named for Bryant.
“Lower Merion and everything associated with it made me who I am,” Bryant had said before that ceremony.