NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash this morning in Calabasas, California along with three others, including his daughter Gianna, who was a rising basketball star herself. According to eyewitnesses, the chopper made sputtering noises and a fire had broken out before it crashed into a hillside.
Bryant was born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia and is widely considered among the greatest NBA players of all time. During the 20-year career with the Lakers after being a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, he made 18 All-Star teams, won 5 NBA championships and was named an NBA Finals MVP twice and the league MVP in '08. He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. He wore two numbers for the Lakers, 8 and 24, and both have since been retired; he's the only NBA person with the honor of having two numbers retired for the same team. He was not without controversy; he was accused of sexual assault in 2003 in Colorado in a widely reported story. The charges were eventually dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court. The case caused him to withdraw from playing on the U.S. Olympic National Team for the 2004 Games; he eventually did play in 2012 when the team won a gold medal.
Bryant ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring, having just been passed by LeBron James for third place . Bryant's final tweet salutes James and said "On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next."
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, and their daughters Natalia, Bianca, and Capri, who was just born this past June.