On Jan. 26, 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash. Bryant was only 41 at the time of death. He was one of nine people involved in the fatal crash, another of which included his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
It was not an unusual occurrence for Bryant to travel by helicopter. In fact, he frequently relied on helicopter usage to avoid the LA traffic before Lakers games. In this case, Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, were traveling to a Mamba Sports Academy basketball game. However, they never made it to the game.
The cause of the helicopter’s fatal crash is still under investigation. Yet the crash most likely occurred as a result of the thick fog surrounding Southern California on that Sunday morning. According to the New York Times, the helicopter received special approval to fly, even though the weather conditions were worse than usual standards for flying. [2H1]
Of those involved in the crash, other victims include John Altobelli, 56, baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter from Orange County, Christina Mauser, a California basketball coach and Ara Zobayan, the pilot.
In the wake of this tragedy, mourners have recalled Bryant’s reflection on how he wanted to be remembered in a 2015 ESPN interview: “I’ve always said that I wanted to be remembered as a player that didn’t waste a moment … didn’t waste a day.”
Bryant’s impeccable skill and devotion to winning on the court won him “respect from rivals and inspired those who followed him into the game,” wrote The New York Times. He was drafted onto the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, leading them to five championships and earning him the ‘All-Star’ title in 18 of his 20 seasons on the team.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. Bryant will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
Bryant’s daughter Gianna inherited his love and dedication to the sport. Nicknamed Gigi, she played at his school, the Mamba Sports Academy, and was determined to play basketball for the University of Connecticut and then in the WNBA.
“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans would come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me and they’ll be like, ‘You’ve gotta have a boy … You gotta have somebody to carry on your tradition, the legacy.’ “She’s like, ‘Oy, I got this. Don’t need no boy for that.’ I’m like, that’s right. Yes, you do, you got this,” Bryant said about Gianna while on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Bryant and Gianna are survived by wife and mother Vanessa Bryant, as well as three daughters and sisters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3 and Capri Kobe Bryant, who was born last June. However, their legacy will persist for over a lifetime.
“Los Angeles is mourning the loss of one of our most beloved legends and icons,” California Rep. Maxine Water said in a statement following Bryant’s death. “Though he is no longer with us, our city will never forget what he meant to us, and we will keep his legacy alive forever.”
Outside of the Staples Center, millions of fans gathered to honor the place where they watched the basketball legend play the game he loved. Shrines and vigils honoring Bryant were spread throughout the city. Los Angeles City Hall and LAX Airport were lit up in purple and gold – the Laker’s colors – to shine a light on the man he was.
Bryant’s passing touched the world in its entirety. The Dallas Mavericks are retiring the number 24 out of respect for Bryant. “Kobe was an ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon. Above all, he was a loving and dedicated father,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a statement.
Joe Rivas, LA resident and fan, summarized the nations’ grief: “It’s beyond basketball.” May Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and the other victims rest in peace.
Image courtesy of Inc.com