On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 26, reports of icon Kobe Bryant’s death broke the internet. Bryant along with eight others, occupied Bryant’s private helicopter on its way to a travel basketball game when the helicopter went down in Calabasas, California. There were a total of nine victims but only six were confirmed at the time. One of the victims of the accident was Bryant’s 13 -year-old daughter, Gianna, nicknamed “Gigi”.
According to USA Today, Orange Coast College baseball coach, John Altobelli, along with his wife, Keri, and one of their two daughters, Alyssa were on board as well as Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at Orange County private school. The final three victims were confirmed the next morning including Ara Zobayan (pilot), and Sarah and Payton Chester. All bodies have officially been recovered from the tragic accident.
The helicopter was set to arrive at the Mamba Academy, Kobe Bryant sports facility. In 2016 the sports academy in Thousand Oaks, California opened up but would later be bought by Kobe himself. The academy would be named after Bryant, along with the possibility of opening more facilities in the future.
Former NBA player and current basketball commentator, Kenny Smith, stated on his show, “He bought a gymnasium an hour and a half from where he lives, you think he needs to buy a gymnasium in Thousand Oaks to make money? No. You think Kobe Bryant needs to have a tournament for girls called the “Mamba Series”? No. He’s doing it to spend moments with his daughters.”
When it comes to basketball, Bryant was one of the greatest players to pick up a ball. In 1996, Bryant was drafted with the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets but would be traded later that month to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant would become a key piece in the Lakers legendary franchise.
Kobe spent 20 years playing with the Lakers and in that time he was able to bring five championships to LA. Bryant will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest players ever and arguably the greatest Laker of all time.
Kobe is ranked 12 on the NBA top 100 players of all time (list made in 2016) according to ESPN. He is a former league MVP, a five-time NBA champion, two time NBA finals MVP, eighteen-time all-star, fifteen time All-NBA team member, and the list goes on and on. Bryant’s most famous performance took place in 2006 when he scored 81 points in a single game vs the Toronto Raptors, second most all time behind Wilt Chamberlain (100).
The 2015-2016 season would be Bryant’s last and during his final NBA game as he put up 60 points to finish off his career. In Dec. of 2017, Bryant would return to the Staples Center when both of his jerseys (NO. 8 and NO. 24) were retired in the Lakers franchise. Kobe Bryant is the only player in NBA history to have two numbers retired by the same team.
While Bryant accomplished so much for his Lakers, he was also able to bring pride to our country as he brought home two Olympic gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 summer games. Bryant would retire with a hall of fame resume. It was announced Monday evening, Jan. 27, that Kobe Bryant would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2020 in his first year of eligibility.
To many, Bryant was more than just a basketball player, he was a father and recognized to be a role model to many. Bryant was a father of four daughters. Natalia was the oldest, age 17, Bianka, age 3, Capri, 7 months old, and lastly Gianna “Gigi” who passed away during the helicopter crash at the age of 13. With Kobe, he was considered to be a “girl dad.” Bryant had a great love for his daughters and shared a special bond with his 13-year-old, Gigi.
Bryant went on the show, Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2019 and was asked about his daughters and that people always came up to him in front of his daughter Gigi and say, “You need a son”, “You and V need to have a boy”. Gigi stepped up and simply said, “I got this”, showing that she wanted to be the one to carry on the legacy of her father. With Gigi wanting to be apart of the basketball world, it allowed Kobe to develop a relationship with the WNBA and women’s basketball as a whole.
One person Bryant was able to develop a close relationship with was Oregon Women’s basketball star, Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu had to hold back tears during her game against Oregon State, just moments after the news broke. Oregon managed to pull off a win, and ESPN interviewed Ionescu moments after. ESPN asked her about Bryant and she said, “Everything I do, I do it for him. . . [He was a] really close friends. And this season’s for him.”
Bryant’s amazing legacy went beyond basketball as after his retirement he decided to invest in the film industry. On Apr. 23, 2017, alongside Glen Keane, Bryant released an animated short film, in which we wrote and narrated, Dear Basketball. The film is based on a letter Bryant wrote to The Players' Tribune on November 29, 2015, announcing his retirement from basketball. In 2018, Bryant would go on to win an Oscar for best animated short film. Bryant became the first African American to win this award.
Bryant for as long as he played was known for his attitude towards life. It is also one of the many reasons he is so well known. This became known as “Mamba Mentality”. His mentality was one of a kind as he showed this as a way of living. His mentality was to never be satisfied in life with where you are currently and to always strive for better.
Stephen A Smith, an American sports television personality, sports radio host, and sports journalist, took the air the day following the news of Kobe Bryant’s passing. While on SportsCenter he took time to reflect on Kobe saying, “This is a guy I’ve known throughout his entire career, and I knew him pretty well and we’ve talked a lot throughout the years and knowing what a winner he was not just on the basketball court but off it.” He would later go on to talk about what he meant to many people.
Smith stated, “. . . just knowing how inspirational he was, how motivational he was in terms of helping to instill in other people just the tenacity and to focus on being all that you could be and to never take any shortcuts A willingness to put in the work to rip yourself and shred yourself of the excuses of the things that hold you back from achieving the things you aspire to achieve It was just about basketball with him it was about life.”
A man by the name of Nick M recently started a petition on change.org to the NBA to make Byrantthe new logo of the NBA. Nick wrote, “With the untimely and unexpected passing of the great Kobe Bryant please sign this petition in an attempt to immortalize him forever as the new NBA Logo.” The petition is currently at 2.9 million signatures. If you would like to sign you can visit https://www.change.org/p/nba-petition-to-make-kobe-bryant-the-new-nba-logo.