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"An unthinkable day." NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13yo daughter Gigi have been killed in a helicopter crash.

Kobe Bryant, widely considered one of the greatest players in basketball, has been killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Maria-Onore.

Kobe and his daughter were on a private helicopter when it went down after a fire broke out.

A total of nine people are confirmed dead, with representatives for TMZ Sport confirming the 41-year-old and 13-year-old are among the deceased.

The other victims are unknown at this stage.

Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers talking about former opponent Kobe Bryant’s death. Post continues after video.

Video via NBATV

Kobe’s stardom.

Kobe Bryant was a transcendent star who went straight from high school to the game’s biggest stage.

He won five NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers and was the face of the franchise during his 20-year career.

A small forward and shooting guard, Bryant averaged 25 points during his career and twice led the NBA in scoring.

He was an 18-times NBA All-Star who wore the jersey numbers 24 and 8 – both of which were retired by the Lakers – and continued the ‘Showtime’ tradition of the storied franchise that has been home to the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant poses with his family at halftime after both his #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Image: Maxx Wolfson/Getty.
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The fourth-highest scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points, Bryant only gave up the third spot on the list on Saturday night to LeBron James.

Born in Philadelphia, Bryant was only 17 when he was taken as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft.

But he never played for the Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers, where he played his entire career before retiring in 2016.

In 2008, he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player.

Internationally, he won two Olympic gold medals, part of the United States team in 2008 and 2012.

Kobe and Gigi's family.

Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa have been together since he was 21, and share four daughters: Natalia Diamante, 17, Gianna Maria-Onore, 13 (confirmed deceased in the helicopter crash), Bianka Bella, 3, and Capri Kobe, less than one year old.

Natalia, the oldest, turned 17 years old just seven days ago, with Kobe posting a proud dad photo on his Instagram.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Happy Birthday my baby. I love you beyond measure. You will always be my little Principessa #17

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

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Kobe often updated his 12.7 million Instagram followers about the love he had for his family, with his feed full of smiling pictures of his wife and kids.

"On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen (Vanessa). I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4 princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre," he wrote eight weeks ago on his anniversary.

The couple were married in 2001, announcing their engagement on her 18th birthday. They filed for divorce in 2011, but then announced their decision to stay together in 2013.

Kobe Vanessa
Vanessa and Kobe Bryant in December 2019. Image: by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Sean Combs.

Early reports from both TMZ and Sports Illustrated say that Kobe and his daughter Gigi were on their way to one of her basketball games when the helicopter crashed.

Gigi was keen to follow in her father's footsteps and according to Kobe was "hellbent" on playing college basketball for the University of Connecticut, reports TMZ.

Speaking to the All the Smoke podcast just two weeks ago, Kobe said his daughter's love for the sport reinvigorated him post retirement to experience and appreciate basketball in a different way.

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"So before Gigi got into basketball I hardly watched it, but now that's she's into basketball, we watch every night," he said.

"We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes. It wasn't me sitting there you know as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it's like about me, and I don't like that. It was her, she was having such a good time," he added.

Gigi and Kobe
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna at a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks in November, 2019. Image: Allen Berezovsky/Getty.

Tributes.

News of Kobe and Gigi's death is trending worldwide, with tributes starting to trickle in as friends and fans digest the news.

The New York Times reports around 200 people are huddled together in the foggy Calabasas at the foot of the hill closest to the crash. Several people were wearing Kobe gear and had basketballs.

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View this post on Instagram

 

I don’t have the words. Every ounce of my heart is with you, Vanessa. ????

A post shared by Kris Jenner (@krisjenner) on

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View this post on Instagram

 

It can't be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day.! Love you man!

A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

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More to come.

With AAP.

Feature image: Instagram/Kobe Bryant.

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