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NBA legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

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Kobe Bryant (Ian West/PA)

Kobe Bryant (Ian West/PA)

Kobe Bryant.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Harry How

Kobe Bryant (Ian West/PA)

NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash.

The 41-year-old died after the aircraft came down in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning, according to CNN.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said five people were killed in the crash, which is now under investigation.

Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history, winning five championships during a storied career with the LA Lakers.

Bryant made his debut for the team in 1996 and played for the Lakers for the entirety of his 20-year career. He won three NBA titles in-a-row between 2000 and 2002 alongside Shaquille O'Neal, before winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

The NBA legend was in the news as recently as Saturday night, after current LA Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the all-time NBA scoring list, taking third place.

Having announced his plans to retire in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant "one of the greatest players in the history of our game."

He was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008, was Finals MVP on two occasions and was an 18-time All-Star.

Bryant - who was born in Philadelphia in 1978 - was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant's shirt numbers - eight and 24 - in a ceremony in December 2017, when then franchise president Magic Johnson said: "We're here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold".

He stood third in the all-time NBA points list until Saturday night, when current Laker LeBron James pushed him down to fourth place.

James had told NBA.com after the game: "I'm just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play."

Bryant tweeted on Saturday night: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother".

Sporting stars from around the world were quick to pay tribute to Bryant on their Twitter accounts.

Former England striker Gary Lineker wrote: "Oh no. How awful. One of the greatest sportsmen of our lifetime. Utterly tragic", while current England forward Raheem Sterling wrote: "Rest easy Legend".

Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady said: "We miss you already Kobe", while retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: "Nooooooooooo God please No!".

Former sprinter Usain Bolt tweeted: "Still can't believe ?@kobebryant."

Mr Bryant was married to Vanessa with whom he has four daughters, Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and baby Capri.

Belfast Telegraph