NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26. The tragic incident took place in Calabasas, California, where eight others were lost including his 13- year-old daughter Gianna.
The group was on its way to a basketball game that Gianna and another passenger were supposed to play in. The other passengers included baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri and their basketball player daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan. The news quickly spread as TMZ was the first to report the incident.
“I thought it was a horrible joke when my son first showed me on his phone,” Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s former teammate, said. “I couldn't even imagine something like this being true.”
According to The Daily Beast, the weather conditions were so bad that both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had grounded their helicopters.
“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” Police Department Spokesman Josh Rubenstein said.
Once it was confirmed, images of Bryant were scattered all over social media including posts from celebrities like Justin Bieber, the Kardashians and basketball heroes.
There were hashtags like #MAMBAFOREVER and #MAMBAMENTALITY being used in the captions, representing Bryant's alter ego, The Black Mamba. A trend quickly picked up as players began writing messages on the sides of their sneakers in Bryant’s honor.
He picked up the nickname to separate his life on and off the court, according to a 2014 interview with The New Yorker. “When I step on the court, I become that. I am a killer snake. I'm stone cold, man.”
Although The Black Mamba was deadly when it was game time, he was thought of as being rather extraordinary in family time as well . Married to Vanessa Bryant, the two had been a couple since they were 17. They had four daughters: Gianna Marie Onore Bryant, Natalia Diamante Bryant, Bianka Bella Bryant and Capri Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was the thirteenth pick in the 1996 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 20 seasons, earning himself five NBA championships. He was an 18-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA All-Star game MVP, two time NBA finals MVP and received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008.
Bryant had changed the game of basketball. He retired in 2016, where he ended his last game by dropping 60 points. He wore the number 8 for the first ten seasons before switching it to 24 for the remainder of his career of basketball. As a tribute, NBA teams began taking either a 24-second violation or an 8-second call at the beginning of every game. Many players, including rising stars like Joel Embiid and Trae Young, wore Bryant's jersey number during games following the news.
The Black Mamba scored a total of 33,643 points in his career, and he's ranked 4th for the most points ever scored in NBA franchise history.
Michael Jordan paid tribute to Bryant, one of the few players to ever earn the honor of being compared to him as the potential greatest of all time.
"I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball.”
It goes without question that Bryant was an inspiration to many people. He taught people to never give up and to strive for greatness, regardless of feeling defeated. His legacy will carry on through the hearts of his family, friends and fans. Kobe Bryant will remain one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.
By Javier Sarache Jr.