Kobe Bryant, Transformational Star of the N.B.A., Dies in Helicopter Crash

Kobe Bryant, Transformational Star of the N.B.A., Dies in Helicopter Crash

“Kobe unites everybody,” said Maika McNairy, 17, a fan who was there with his mother.

Current and former Lakers players wrote emotional tributes on social media.

“IM SICK RIGHT NOW,” Shaquille O’Neal, Mr. Bryant’s teammate, wrote on Twitter. “I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.”

In retirement, Mr. Bryant was busy becoming a modern Renaissance man who wrote and produced films and cultivated friends in the technology and venture capital sectors to help him with his investments.

Mr. Bryant first became a national figure when he was in high school in suburban Philadelphia, a preternatural talent whose speed, shooting prowess and seeming ability to jump out of the gymnasium made him destined for superstardom.

In the spring of his senior year at Lower Merion High School, he announced that he would forgo college and enter the N.B.A., helping to usher in a new era in which the best high school basketball players, regardless of their size, started leaping from high school to the professional ranks.

Within a few years, Mr. Bryant had become the N.B.A.’s next superstar and the top player of his generation, taking his rightful place in a line of modern stars that includes Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Mr. Jordan and eventually, Mr. James and Stephen Curry.

On Saturday night, when Mr. James, playing for the Lakers in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, passed Mr. Bryant on the career scoring list, he was wearing sneakers on which he had inscribed “Mamba 4 Life,” a reference to Mr. Bryant’s nickname. Mr. Bryant later tweeted his congratulations, the last message on his handle’s timeline.

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