By Breda Graham
Fellow sports stars and fans have paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant who has been confirmed dead following a helicopter crash in California this morning.
Five people were among the deceased after the private helicopter went down on a hillside in Calabasas, California, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.
“Five people confirmed deceased, no survivors in #Calabasas helicopter crash. #LASD #Malibu deputies remain with #LA County Fire personnel. Investigation ongoing.
Avoid the area until further notice,” it posted in a tweet.
Bryant, who also won two Olympic gold medals, played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career before retiring in 2016.
Having announced his plans to retire in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant “one of the greatest players in the history of our game”.
He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, was Finals MVP on two occasions and was an 18-time All-Star.
Bryant – who was born in Philadelphia in 1978 – was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.
The Lakers retired both of Bryant’s shirt numbers – eight and 24 – in a ceremony in December 2017, when then franchise president Magic Johnson said: “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold.”
Fellow sports stars across the globe have remembered Bryant and paid tribute to his sporting achievements and 20-year career with the Lakers.
US president Donald Trump said in a tweet that the passing of Kobe Bryant was “terrible news”.
Fans of the five-time NBA champion took to Twitter to offer their condolences following the news.
– with additional reporting from PA