Basketball great Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash, according to reports

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has died aged 41, according to reports.

The point guard, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning according to American media outlet TMZ.

Bryant, who also won two Olympic gold medals, played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career before retiring in 2016.

Basketball - NBA - Pre-Season Tour - Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Lakers - O2 Arena
Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles and two Olympic golds (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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."

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