Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. at the age of 41. All nine people in the helicopter perished, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Bryant leaves behind his wife Vanessa and three children, along with his mother, father, and countless fans.
Bryant was born in Philadelphia and was the son of former 76ers player Joe Bryant. He had a storied basketball career at local Lower Merion High School, leading his team to a state title. After graduating high school, he was drafted at the age of 17 as the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets and was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent his entire 20-year NBA career.
Considered one of the greatest basketball players in history, Bryant won five NBA championships, was selected to 18 All-Star Games, and won two Olympic gold medals, among numerous other accomplishments. Bryant wore the numbers 8 and 24 while in the NBA, and both are retired by the Lakers.
As a Philadelphia native, Bryant played games on Penn's campus at the Palestra. He notably scored 29 points in a Lower Merion playoff win over Coatesville in 1996.
The accident is currently under investigation, but initial reports indicate that the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas amid heavy fog at 9:47 a.m. PST. Bryant was known to travel in helicopters frequently, including to games at Staples Center when he played for the Lakers.
Even though he spent much of his adult life in Los Angeles, Bryant was still involved in the Philadelphia community. Bryant made numerous donations to Lower Merion, and their gym is named Bryant Gymnasium. He was known to be an Eagles fan, and in March of last year, he visited a middle school in West Philadelphia and told students not to be afraid to chase their dreams.