CHICAGO (CBS) — The United Center mounted a tribute to Kobe Bryant Sunday night, after the Los Angeles Lakers legend was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash.
The LED signs over the long vertical windows showed images of Bryant and his name on banners in Lakers colors.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, dozens of drivers whizzed by, honked their horns, and paid tribute Sunday night.
Bryant and his daughter were among nine killed when helicopter went down in Calabasas, California around 11:45 a.m. Chicago time Sunday.
Other victims identified in the crash included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter Allyssa.
Also killed was Christina Mauser, an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Gianna’s school.
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The pilot had asked for special permission to fly, allowing him to fly the helicopter despite the fog that reduced visibility.
The nine aboard were heading west to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy 13 miles away for a game where Gianna was to play and her father was to coach.
Magnesium aboard the helicopter made the fire after the crash hotter and harder to fight. Some first responders descended on the quarter-acre debris field from the air since it was so difficult to access.
The question remains as to whether nine people should have been aboard such an aircraft.
“We are trying to figure out what the configuration of that helicopter is. It really depends on the configuration,” said National Transportation Safety Board Member Jennifer Homendy. “That’s something we are trying to verify.”
A crew of 18 from the NTSB was en route to the scene Sunday night. The key questions at sunrise will center on the upkeep of that chopper and the history of the pilot.
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic, AP reported. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown, the wire service said.
Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson released a statement on behalf of the Bulls:
“The Chicago Bulls organization is terribly saddened about the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the other passengers in today’s horrific helicopter crash in California. While he leaves us far too soon, his legacy and persona will forever be remembered. One of the best to have ever played the game of basketball, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Bryant family and the other families affected.”
The All-Star Game will be at the United Center this year in a few weeks. On that weekend, we will learn whether Bryant will enter the NBA Hall of Fame.
This is his first year of eligibility.