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The incredible life of NBA icon Kobe Bryant

AP|
NBA legend 'Kobe Bryant'
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NBA legend 'Kobe Bryant'

Kobe Bryant inspired a generation of basketball players worldwide with both his sublime skills and his unquenchable competitive fire.

He also earned Los Angeles' eternal adoration during his two decades as the fierce soul of the city's beloved Lakers.

Less than four years into his retirement from the NBA, Bryant was seeking new challenges and working to inspire his daughters' generation through sports and storytelling when his next act ended shockingly early.

Reuters
How did the crash occur?
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How did the crash occur?

Bryant, the 18-time All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41.

The crash occurred in the foggy hills above Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. A different person familiar with the case confirmed Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed.

Both of the AP's unnamed sources spoke on condition of anonymity because few details of the crash had been released publicly.

Authorities said nine people were on the helicopter, and all were presumed dead. No names were released.

AP
His dearest mode of transport took his life
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His dearest mode of transport took his life

Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County for much of his adult life, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California's notorious traffic. He often traveled to practices and games by helicopter before his playing career ended in 2016, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his many new ventures, which included a burgeoning entertainment company that recently produced an Academy Award-winning animated short film.

The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant's basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, California. A girls basketball tournament was scheduled for Sunday at the facility.

AFP
Kobe's beloved family
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Kobe's beloved family

Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women's sports in recent years, coaching and mentoring basketball players around the world. Gianna, better known as Gigi, had a promising youth career.

Bryant sat with her courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game late last year, clearly passing along his wisdom to his daughter.

Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and recalled how fans would often approach him saying ``you gotta have a boy, you gotta someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy.''

Gianna took exception: "She's like, 'Oy, I got this,''' Bryant recalled.

AP
A prolific shooter with relentless competitive ethic
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A prolific shooter with relentless competitive ethic

Bryant retired nearly four years ago as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades in Lakers purple and gold as a prolific shooter with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic that inspired strong reactions from fans and opponents alike. He held that No. 3 spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers' LeBron James passed him during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant's hometown.

News of Bryant's death inspired an outpouring of grief around the sports world and beyond, but it was felt particularly painfully in Los Angeles, where Bryant was unquestionably the sprawling city's most popular athlete and one of its most beloved public figures.

AFP
NBA community pays tributes
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NBA community pays tributes

The NBA kept its games on as scheduled when the news broke, but the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors both took voluntary 24-second shot clock violations at the start of their game in honor of Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the second half of his career.

Several other teams followed up by deliberately taking delays of 24 and 8 seconds, honoring both of his jersey numbers. Many players were seen crying before their games.

AP
Kobe's contributions
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Kobe's contributions

Bryant's future appeared to be limitless in retirement, whether in sports or entertainment. He opened a production company shortly after leaving the Lakers, saying he was just as passionate about storytelling as he had been about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his contributions to "Dear Basketball,'' an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN.

AP
Awards and Achievements
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Awards and Achievements

Bryant became one of the game's most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, but he also earned 12 selections to the NBA's All-Defensive teams.

He teamed with Shaquille O'Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist with the dominant U.S. team, Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honor.

AFP
The ever-inspiring basketball superstar
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The ever-inspiring basketball superstar

Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players, most of whom grew up either idolizing Bryant or absorbing his work ethic and competitive spirit in the same way Bryant's generation learned from Michael Jordan. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening in awe to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.

Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life, and he grew up from a teenager to a respected veteran in the unforgiving Hollywood spotlight.

He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe ``Jellybean'' Bryant, played professionally. He spoke four languages and played a major role in the NBA's international growth over his two decades in the league, traveling the world and connecting with athletes in other sports and celebrities.

Reuters
Innumerable feats
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Innumerable feats

Between those title runs and before the quiet final years of his career, Bryant accomplished innumerable feats including an 81-point game against Toronto in January 2006. Bryant's final NBA seasons were dogged by injuries, but he still went into retirement with that jaw-dropping 60-point performance against Utah.

AFP

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