(Reuters) – Kobe Bryant, widely considered one of the greatest players in basketball, was killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday. He was 41.
A transcendent star who went straight from high school to the game’s biggest stage, Bryant won five NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers and was the face of the franchise during his 20-year career.
Bryant, a small forward and shooting guard, 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.
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.
On Saturday, Bryant used Twitter to extend his congratulations to James: “Much respect my brother,” he tweeted.
A few hours later, Bryant perished in the crash. He is survived by wife Vanessa, with whom he had four daughters.
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.