Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash that took place in the city of Calabasas in California Sunday (26/1) morning. Five people have been confirmed dead as a result of the crash, which is now under investigation.
TMZ reported Bryant and others were traveling in Bryant's private helicopter when it went down.
The 41-year-old spent his entire 20-year stellar career with the Lakers, and as well as his NBA achievements he also won two Olympic basketball gold medals with the United States.
James, 35, paid tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers legend with special Nike shoes during the game when he surpassed Bryant's record.
Bryant had long had an on-again, off-again friendship with O'Neal's father, Bryant's longtime Laker teammate.
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Reaction to the death of retired National Basketball Association superstar Kobe Bryant
NBA Legend Kobe Bryant was reported dead this morning from a helicopter plane crash near Calabasas in Los Angeles. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the downed chopper was a Sikorsky S-76.
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Los Angeles County Sheriffs confirmed an aircraft had crashed in Calabasas.
On Saturday evening, Bryant congratulated James on his latest milestone in what would be his final Twitter and Instagram posts.
James, of course, now plays for the Lakers - Bryant's former team. "Much respect my brother". Bryant was named Finals MVP in 2010.
"I'm happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players, one of the all-time greatest Lakers".
Born in Philadelphia on August 23, 1978, Bryant was a high phenom at Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pennsylvania) and in 1996, he was named USA TODAY's boys high school player of the year.