Basketball: NBA legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

Legendary NBA player Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, a source has confirmed to ESPN.

TMZ Sports reports the former Los Angeles Lakers guard died alongside 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria. They were traveling to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice, when the crash occurred. 

ESPN claims others on board the helicopter included another player and parent. CNN is reporting nine people died in the crash.

The LA Times says the crash occurred shortly before 10am (local time), amid foggy conditions, with the aircraft sparking a brush fire that made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the wreckage.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

A witness told the Times he saw the helicopter struggling, as it was travelling "unusually low".

"I saw it falling and spluttering," 62-year-old Jerry Kocharian told the Times. "No-one could survive that."

Bryant has often used a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter to travel, often flying from Newport Beach to the Staples Center for Lakers games.

The crash comes one day after Lakers forward LeBron James passed Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. 

During his illustrious 20-year career, Bryant won five NBA titles with the Lakers, as well as two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States.

He also won two NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards and one NBA regular-season MVP nod in 2008.

The Lakers famously retired both Bryant's jerseys - No.8 and No.24 - the only player in team history to receive that honour.

Bryant was selected No.13 overall in 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, before he was traded to the Lakers.

The 41-year-old is survived by wife Vanessa and three daughters - Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was only born in June.

Bryant also achieved success off the court, with his film 'Dear Basketball' winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.