Heartbreaking reason Kobe was in chopper
THE reason Kobe Bryant was travelling in a helicopter has been unearthed as the world continues to mourn the death of the NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The Los Angeles Lakers icon and "Gigi", one of his and wife Vanessa's four children, were tragically killed on Monday when their chopper crashed into hills in Calabasas, California.
Nobody survived the crash and local authorities confirmed there were nine fatalities in total, including friends and teammates of Gianna.
The group was travelling to Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, for a basketball match in which Gianna would play and the NBA great would coach in. Tragically, they never made it.
Travelling in helicopters was nothing new for Bryant, who made a habit of taking to the skies to avoid Los Angeles' traffic.
Spending 20 years at the Lakers before his retirement in 2016, Bryant wanted to ensure he could fulfil his basketball and family commitments - and that meant not wasting time on LA's congested roads.
Ultimately, Bryant's desire to spend more quality time with his family convinced him flying was the smartest option.
Speaking on The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat in December 2018, Bryant went into detail about his training schedule and why he decided to regularly use helicopters.
Bryant's strict daily routine saw him wake up at 4am, lift weights at 5am and then be back home in time to be with his girls when they woke at 6.30am and take them to school.
"That's what I did every morning," Bryant said.
He'd then travel to downtown LA for practice - a trip he could make in 30-40 minutes early in his career "before people started moving down south" where he lived in Orange County.
After getting extra shots up and treatment after practice he could still be back in time to pick his children up from school and be there for "after school activities, all that fun stuff".
"But then traffic started getting really, really bad and I was sitting in traffic and wound up missing things like the school play," Bryant said.
"I had to figure out a way I could still train and focus on the craft (of basketball), but also not compromise family time.
"That's when I started looking into helicopters to get up and back (from training).
"My wife was like, 'I can pick them up' and I was like, 'No, no, no, I want to do that'. Because you have road trips (away from home) and times where you don't see your kids, you know, so every chance I get to spend time with them - even if it's 20 minutes in the car - I want that."
However, Bryant and his wife did take steps to avoid the worst. "He and Vanessa had a deal that they would never fly on a helicopter together," a source told People magazine of the couple.
LAST PHOTOS OF KOBE, GIANNA EMERGE
It comes as the last known photographs of Bryant and his daughter emerge, showing the Lakers great coaching Gianna's basketball team on the weekend at Mamba Sports Academy - a day before they died together on their way to the same facility.
The 41-year-old started the day on the mezzanine level, but made his way courtside to coach the Mamba Lady Mavericks in their first two games of the Mamba Cup Series.
"He had a clipboard, he was drawing up plays and talking to (the players)," one person who was there told the New York Post.
"He was a little bit animated at times, but it was in a very positive way."
The photos show Bryant in a black jumper and hat emblazoned with an "M" for Mamba, actively engaging with the team.
Throughout the day, Bryant "had really good energy with his daughter", a witness said. He was "just teaching a lot and took a few extra time-outs to explain things to the kids".
TREACHEROUS WEATHER MAY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO CRASH
Weather conditions in Los Angeles were so treacherous when Bryant's helicopter crashed that local law enforcement had decided to ground all air support.
America's Federal Aviation Authority and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the tragedy to determine exactly what went wrong. But weather around the crash site is thought to have been a factor.
Low clouds and heavy fog blanketed the area, and eyewitnesses reported seeing the helicopter disappear into the fog before it went down.
In a statement to The Los Angeles Times, the LA Police Department confirmed it had made the call to ground its helicopters in the morning due to the foggy conditions, and they did not fly until the afternoon.
"The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying," said department spokesman Josh Rubenstein.
However, Bryant and Co. had been given special approval to take flight despite the weather, meaning they could proceed through the foggy airspace in Southern California.
Multiple witnesses told TMZ they heard the helicopter's engine sputtering before it went down. And The LA Times spoke to a witness who saw the helicopter flying unusually low, before vanishing into a cloud of fog.
"It didn't sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy," said Jerry Kocharian.
After the helicopter disappeared, he heard a "boom".
"There was a big fireball. No one could survive that," he said.
Tributes have poured in for Bryant and his daughter. NBA stars wrote messages of admiration on their shoes and teams ran out the 24-second shot clock during yesterday's games in honour of the jersey Bryant wore in the latter stage of his career - No. 24.
Athletes, celebrities and politicians including American President Donald Trump and former US Commander in Chief Barack Obama paid their respects on social media, while masses of Lakers fans have congregated around the franchise's home stadium The Staples Center to share in their grief.
A stadium chant for the five-time NBA champ erupted at the NFL's Pro Bowl game in Orlando, while basketball figures around America gave teary interviews remembering Bryant's legacy.