Helicopter Crash in California kills 9, basketball legend included

Written By Mason Strawn

A helicopter crashed and landed into a mountain side in Calabasas, CA on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 26. The crash killed all nine people on board, including the pilot.

NBA star and basketball legend Kobe Bryant owned the helicopter and was on the aircraft when it crashed. Alongside Bryant, his second oldest daughter, Gianna, two of her basketball teammates, one of the girl’s parents, another’s mother and an assistant coach to the girls’ team.

Bryant was 41 at the time of the crash, and his daughter was 13. All nine victims have been identified and their bodies recovered.

Bryant and the other passengers on the privately-owned aircraft were headed to the girl’s youth basketball game, when it is believed that they hit weather conditions that affected visibility and it’s thought to be the cause for the crash.

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, Kobe’s private pilot, recorded over 8,000 hours of flight time according to records from July 2019. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter didn’t have a Blackbox, as it wasn’t required of the aircraft. After the crash, a small brush fire erupted, keeping first responders from arriving to the site immediately.

Bryant was a 20-year veteran in the NBA, as well as an 18-time all-star. Bryant played all 20 of his seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is known as statistically one of the best and most successful basketball players of all time, winning five championships, named MVP in 2008 and winning Final’s MVP twice.

He was also the head coach of his daughter. Gianna, and her friends’ basketball team. Also in the crash were Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna’s teammate and her father, John Altobelli, a junior college baseball coach at Orange Coast College, who won four state championships with the Orange Coast Pirates.

After news of the accident broke out, millions responded on social media.

With NBA and college basketball games taking place that day, players and teams across the country took 24 second shot clock violations and eight second back court violations to honor Bryant, as he wore both 24 and 8 during his NBA tenure.

“When I found out about Kobe’s death, we were warming up during our last home game; I thought it was a hoax honestly and I didn’t want to believe it was true,” Junior Adam Scott, who plays for Point Parks’ Men’s basketball team, said. “Kobe was a major person in my life; I was a huge fan of Kobe and I’m not a big fan type of person towards athletes, but Kobe was one of them. His determination and his will power were a great inspiration [to me].”

Thousands of fans grieved at the Staples Center in LA, the home of the Lakers, to honor Bryant, to the point where police had to ask them to leave the area due to the Grammy’s also taking place at the arena. Players across the league started to change their numbers and hope to see if the NBA retires one or both of Bryant’s numbers.