Nine people have died in the helicopter crash that killed NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed that nine people were on board the aircraft—the pilot plus eight people.

"It is entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name," Villanueva told reporters.

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Bryant - the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star - and his daughter Gigi, 13, were among those killed in the crash. They were travelling in Bryant's private Sikorsky S-76 helicopter and reportedly heading to a basketball practice session.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department responded to reports of the crash near Las Virgenes Rd and Willow Glen St in Calabasas at around 10am after a fire broke out and a group of mountain bikers spotted the smoke.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Witnesses reported hearing the helicopter's engine sputtering before it went down near the home of Kourtney Kardashian.

A flight plan indicated the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am PST and the last signal was received from the aircraft at 9.45am.

A flight plan indicated the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am PST and the last signal was received from the aircraft at 9.45am.
A flight plan indicated the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am PST and the last signal was received from the aircraft at 9.45am.

Sources told TMZ Bryant was headed to his Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for basketball practice.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that another player and parent were also on the helicopter.

Kobe and Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa and their three other daughters - Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born last summer.

A heartbreaking video of the deceased father-daughter duo attending a basketball game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets on December 21 resurfaced soon after the crash.

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Bryant appears to be teaching Gianna - a budding basketball star herself - a thing or two about the game while sitting courtside at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, 13, died in the crash.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, 13, died in the crash.

Gianna frequently shared photos of herself on the court on social media.

News of the NBA legend's death sent shockwaves in the sports world and beyond - marking an abrupt ending to one of most indelible public lives in modern American history.

Bryant was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

The Philadelphia native was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft and spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP titles and 18 All-Star titles before retiring in 2016.

Bryant was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and represented the USA at the Olympics in 2008 and 2008.

The crash scene. Photo / Twitter
The crash scene. Photo / Twitter

He was the first guard in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons and was the first and only player in Lakers history to have both of his jersey numbers - 8 and 24 - retired.

He is currently ranked fourth for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring.

The impact he had on fans was readily apparent in the hours after the news broke as mourners wearing his No. 8 and No. 14 began assembling outside the Staples Center, where the Grammy Awards were being held Sunday evening.

Bryant's death came one day after he was passed by Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

The unseated star congratulated James on Twitter during the Lakers' 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

James had written 'Mamba 4 Life' and '8/24 KB' on his sneakers in gold ink before the game to show respect for Bryant.

The Legend of Kobe Bryant. Remembering an icon's greatest plays. Video / Bleacher Report. Photo / AP

'It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,' James told reporters in Bryant's home town of Philadelphia on Saturday. 'Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration.

'It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it's very humbling.'

James is just one of the people that Bryant inspired, and judging by the outpouring of sorrow on the streets of Los Angeles, he is in considerable company.

'Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,' Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter.

'Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways,' said Hall of Famer Larry Bird.

'His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others – his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.'

The father of four was 41 years old.
The father of four was 41 years old.

Bryant will certainly be remembered for his accomplishments - but his most memorable quality was his unwavering self confidence.

He jumped straight from a Philadelphia high school to the NBA Draft at 17, forgoing college at a time when predominant wisdom dictated that prospects develop their game at the NCAA level.

And although he couldn't even vote when his NBA career began in 1996, he refused to kowtow to his veteran teammates, famously feuding with Shaquille O'Neal over the All-Star center's conditioning and dedication.

'I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you've got to put the work in,' James told reporters of Bryant on Saturday.

'There's no substitution for work.'

Even at the end of his career, when a battered 37-year-old Bryant and the Lakers finished just 17-65, the 18-time All-Star gave a fitting farewell, dominating the Utah Jazz in his final game while scoring 60 points — the most by any player in the NBA that season.

Bryant's self-assuredness continued into his post-playing career.

In addition to his vast endorsement deals, Kobe established his own sports brand, Kobe Inc, and saw his share in the business get a reported $200million valuation in 2018.

That same year he produced an animated short film, "Dear Basketball", that ultimately won an Oscar - one of the innumerable awards that found their way to Bryant.

Naturally, Bryant did not have any humble origins.

Born in Philadelphia to 76ers forward Joe 'Jellybean' Bryant and Pamela Cox, the sister of another NBA player, Kobe's life was inextricably linked to basketball, and not just in the United States.

After a solid eight-year NBA career, Joe moved the family to Italy when Kobe was just six to continue playing professionally.

It was there that Bryant learned to speak Italian fluently, scoured the NBA highlight videos his grandfather sent him from the US, and rooted for his father's teammate, current Houston Rockets and former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons for the LA Lakers.
Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons for the LA Lakers.

Throughout it all, basketball remained a constant in Bryant's life.

His family moved back to Philadelphia at the end of his father's basketball career.

The younger Bryant attended Lower Merion High School, where his jersey is now retired, and by his senior year had become a national sensation.

The Lakers traded star center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for a Bryant's draft rights in 1996, and the budding superstar rewarded Los Angeles by winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award as a rookie.

Bryant was a starter by his second season, and when coach Phil Jackson brought the famous triangle offense to the Lakers in 1999, Los Angeles came back to prominence, winning three consecutive titles.

Even after the team traded O'Neal to the Miami Heat, the Lakers re-loaded with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, helping Bryant to win another two NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.

But Bryant's life had its valleys along with its peaks.

He suffered an Achilles tendon injury at 34 that more or less ended his days as an elite NBA player.