Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was 41.
The smooth shooting guard, who patterned his game after Michael Jordan, entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1996. By his second season, he had earned his first of 18 all-star selections. By his fourth season, he had teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to win the first of three consecutive championships.
Although his partnership with O’Neal didn’t last, Mr. Bryant went on to greater heights after their 2004 parting. He won two scoring titles in the years that followed, and he famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history. Mr. Bryant’s 2008 pairing with Pau Gasol produced two more championships in 2009 and 2010, with Mr. Bryant winning Finals MVP honors both times.
A famous competitor known for championing his ruthless “Mamba Mentality,” Mr. Bryant suffered a career-altering Achilles’ injury in 2013. He recovered to play three more seasons, retiring in 2016 after 20 seasons with the Lakers. In the last game of his career, Mr. Bryant scored 60 points in perhaps the most memorable career finale in NBA history.
In retirement, Mr. Bryant has written children’s books and produced animated stories, while also pursuing assorted media and business projects with his Granity Studios. Mr. Bryant and his daughter Gianna have occasionally attended Lakers game this season. Just last month, they sat courtside for the Lakers’ victory over the Dallas Mavericks and took photographs with rising star Luka Doncic after the game.
Mr. Bryant, who retired as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer with 33,643 points, was expected to be inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on the first ballot this summer. He was a headlining member of a star-studded class that also includes Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 23, 1978. His first name was inspired by the high-end beef served at a local Japanese steakhouse, his middle name by the nickname given to his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a professional basketball player who played with teams including the Philadelphia 76ers.
Mr. Bryant grew up in Italy, where his father played basketball for several years after leaving the NBA, and in suburban Philadelphia, where Mr. Bryant dominated as a high school athlete, leading his team to a state championship. Years later, according to the Orange County Register, stories circulated in the community of how he would practice in his driveway until midnight and beginning at 6 a.m. on snow days. Mr. Bryant entered the NBA immediately upon his graduation from high school in 1996, becoming one of the youngest players in the league’s history.
Harrison Smith and Emily Langer contributed reporting.