L.A. weather was extremely foggy Sunday morning, and law enforcement sources tell us even LAPD air support was grounded because of it.
Flight tracker data shows Kobe’s chopper appeared to first encounter weather issues as it was above the L.A. Zoo. It circled that area at least 6 times at a very low altitude — around 875 feet — perhaps waiting for the fog to clear.
We know the pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank Airport around 9:30 AM PT, and the tower was aware the pilot had been circling for about 15 minutes. The pilot eventually headed north along the 118 freeway before turning to the west, and started following above the 101 freeway around Woodland Hills, CA.
At around 9:40 AM they encounter more weather — as in seriously heavy fog — and the chopper turned south. This was critical, because they turned toward a mountainous area. The pilot suddenly and rapidly climbed from about 1200 feet up to 2000 feet.
However, moments later — around 9:45 AM — they flew into a mountain at 1700 feet. Flight tracker data shows they were flying at about 161 knots.
3:49 PM PT — Michael Jordan has spoken on Kobe’s death, saying … “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.”
He adds, “He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”
3:01 PM PT — The players, coaches and families at the Mamba Academy were obviously emotional when they heard the news about Kobe’s death … but came together for a moment of silence and prayer.
Some of the Academy leaders addressed everyone at the facility — encouraging them to support each other, grieve together and honor Kobe by living good, quality lives.
Kids, parents and fans left a shrine to Kobe outside the Academy’s doors.
2:40 PM PT — Officials say they believe 9 people were on board — 1 pilot and 8 passengers — and there were no survivors. Still unclear why the chopper crashed but an investigation is under way.
2:42 PM PT — Authorities say responders had to hike to get to the crash scene. When they finally got to the incident site, it was clear no one survived.
2:08 PM PT — Barack Obama says, “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act.”
“To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
1:48 PM PT — Authorities near the crash site are about to hold a news conference, detailing the fatal incident. We will be streaming the whole thing live. The start time has been pushed to 2:30 PM PT.
1:46 PM PT — Shaquille O’Neal just posted a tribute to Kobe … saying, “There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie.”
He continued, “I love you brother and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW!”
1:19 PM PT — We’ve obtained the dispatch audio in which you can hear the operator directing emergency personnel to the crash.
1:12 PM PT — Rick Fox’s attorney confirms the former Laker was NOT among those on board the helicopter, despite rumors that circulated suggesting he was. At least one of the other passengers HAS been confirmed, John Altobelli. He’s a baseball coach at Orange Coast College.
12:49 PM PT — President Trump just tweeted about Kobe’s death … saying, “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”
12:35 PM PT — Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … reps for Kobe tell TMZ Sports. She was 13.
We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks.
Kobe was traveling with at least 3 other people in his private helicopter when it went down. A fire broke out.
Emergency personnel responded, but nobody on board survived. 5 people are confirmed dead. We’re told Vanessa Bryant was not among those on board.
Eyewitnesses also tell us that they heard the helicopter’s engine sputtering before it went down. As you can see, flames and smoke covered much of the scene from the wreck. The official cause of the crash is currently under investigation.
Kobe has famously used a helicopter to travel for years — dating back to when he played for the Lakers. He was known for commuting from Newport Beach, CA to the STAPLES Center in DTLA in his Sikorsky S-76 chopper.
KB is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they have four daughters — Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.
A memorial to Kobe has already sprung up outside of Staples Center, where Kobe played for years.
Kobe has recently been spotted out at NBA games with his daughter Gianna — a rising star basketball player herself. Their youngest daughter, Capri, was just born in June 2019.
Celebrities from all over the world and all parts of entertainment are paying tribute to Kobe on social media. Tom Brady, President Trump, Dwyane Wade and more.
Kobe is widely considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time — making 18 All-Star teams during his 20-year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was 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 ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. He also repped the USA in a number of Olympics appearances, for which he helped secure gold medals twice.
The Lakers famously retired both of Kobe’s jerseys, numbers 8 and 24 … the only player in team history to receive that honor.
Kobe’s accomplishments stand far outside of the basketball world. He won an Oscar for his short film, “Dear Basketball,” in 2018. He was also involved in a handful of charitable efforts — including being an ambassador for the After-School All-Stars, which provides after-school programs to kids across the U.S. He also partnered with China to help launch the Soon Ching Ling Foundation — an org that earmarked funds for education and health programs.
He was a bit of a business mogul too, starting a venture capital firm with his biz partner, Jeff Stibel. Kobe also started Kobe Inc., and invested in sports drinks, among other things. The champ also put out a book called, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” in 2018. It was a best seller at the time. Kobe also dabbled in music — he rapped for a number of years on and off.
On Saturday, LeBron James passed Kobe as third on the all-time NBA scoring list. He paid tribute to Bron on Instagram — his last post — by saying, “On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.”
At age 34, Kobe became the youngest player in NBA history to surpass the 30,000 point mark. Speaking of putting up points, the guy was notorious for his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. It was one of the greatest performances in modern NBA history.
Another major highlight from his long career was his final game in 2016 against the Utah Jazz, when he dropped 60 points and went out with a bang to help his team win. It was especially moving considering his injury-plagued years, which started in 2013 when he tore his Achilles tendon.
He was 41 years old. RIP