A Player, A Father, A Friend: NBA Legend Kobe Bryant

Jay Park ’22

Sports Editor

On Jan. 26, NBA legend Kobe Bean Bryant – as well as eight others – was killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California. According to reports from Adrian Wojnarowski, a senior NBA insider, the passengers in the helicopter were on their way to the Mamba Sports Academy (a sports training facility started by Bryant) when the fatal accident occurred, a mere 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Among those who lost their lives was Kobe’s 13-year old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa, 13-year old basketball player Payton Chester, and her mother Sarah.
First reported by the celebrity news outlet TMZ, the news of Kobe’s death was widely circulated before it could even be confirmed by county police officials, leading to widespread circulation of misinformation. By 10:01 a.m. PST, the LA County Sheriff Department confirmed that there were “no survivors” in the crash.

Immediately following the initial TMZ report, countless celebrities and fans alike took to social media to convey their feelings of devastation and anguish. Long-time Laker teammate and rival Shaquille O’Neal tweeted “There’s no words to express the pain [I’m] going through with this tragedy of [losing] my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant.” Basketball legend and the NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar posted a video on Twitter in which he lamented the loss of his fellow Laker, who tweeted out that he will always remember Kobe as “a man who was much more than an athlete.”

Current players around the league took to honoring Kobe’s legacy during their games. The San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors both decided to take back-to-back 24-second shot clock violations in honor of Kobe’s jersey number of 24, while the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets held a moment of silence in memory of one of basketball’s greatest. The NBA even postponed a game that was to be held between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers out of respect for the latter team.

Kobe’s impact on the world cannot be overstated. A 5x NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, and the 2008 league MVP, Kobe Bryant is widely regarded as one of the greatest scorers in league history. Playing his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe lead his team – with the aforementioned Shaquille O’Neal – to a three-peat (three consecutive championships).

His impact transcends just sports, however. Famous for his coining of the phrase “Mamba Mentality,” a reference to his firm mindset in training to be the best that one can be, Kobe’s career did not end with his retirement from the National Basketball League in 2016. In fact, Kobe went on to win and accomplish a plethora of additional feats and accolades, including an investment in the sports drink Bodyarmor (with a $6 million initial stake turning into a $200 million profit), an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film Dear Basketball, as well as many others.