Basketball legend Kobe Bryant was among the passengers who died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. He was 41 years old. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also one of the nine killed in the crash.
Bryant and his daughter were on their way to play a basketball game at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California before the fatal crash.
While the official cause of the crash is unknown, it is known that visibility was low Sunday morning in Calabasas. Even under the foggy conditions, the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was operating under “special visual flight rules.” An SVFR clearance allows pilots to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for standard visual flight rules.
Bryant’s former pilot, Kurt Deetz, told CNN that the Sikorsky S-76B is “very reliable” and that “they don’t just fall out of the sky.” The Federal Aviation Authority, National Transportation Safety Board, and FBI are investigating the crash.
The loss of the NBA MVP has devastated people around the world. Bryant’s death has sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes from everywhere.
Nick Kyrigos, an Australian tennis player, warmed up for his match with Rafael Nadal wearing Bryant’s No.8 LA Lakers jersey.
Ryan Seacrest shared a photo on Twitter of a New York subway tribute to Bryant. At the 42nd-Street Bryant Park stop, someone posted “Kobe” above a sign so that it now reads, “Kobe Bryant Park.”
Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Celebrated
Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant may have left this world too soon, but their accomplishments shine bright through this tragic time. Remembering the highlights of Kobe Bryant’s career is the best way to celebrate his life, and all he had done with it.
For Bryant, it all began at Lower Merion High School, where he was a basketball star. Despite multiple offers to play college hoops at Duke, North Carolina, Michigan and Villanova, Bryant decided to try his luck with the 1996 NBA draft.
Bryant went 13th overall to the Charlotte Hornets but was immediately sent to the Los Angeles Lakers.
It took him some time to adjust to the pros, but he got the hang of it. During his second season in Los Angeles, Bryant became the youngest All-Star in NBA at 19 years old.
But it was the 2000’s that Bryant went from a star to all-time legend. He was an NBA All-Star from 2000 to 2016, making the All-NBA first team 11 times and earning All-Star game MVP accolades in 2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011. He and Shaquille O’Neal would lead Los Angeles to three consecutive NBA Final victories.
After O’Neal left in 2004, Bryant became the sole star of the Lakers. In 2006, he dropped a career-high 81 points in one game. That is only second all-time behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962.
Two years later, he earned his first and only NBA MVP accolades. Bryant was on a roll, leading the Lakers to victory. He also won Olympic gold medals with Team USA in 2008 and 2012.
In 2013, Bryant’s career took a turn when he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear during a game against the Golden State Warriors. After he tore the tendon, he famously took – and made - both free throws before exiting the court.
Over the next few seasons, Bryant endured various other injuries. After that, he deciding to retire after the 2015-2016 season. In his final game, Bryant scored an NBA season-high of 60 points to famously cap his career. He had spent his 20-year professional career with the Lakers, and the franchise repaid his loyalty by retiring both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys.
But he didn’t stop there. He started Kobe Inc. in 2018. He published a book the same year entitled “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.” He also wrote and narrated “Dear Basketball,” the Academy Award-winning animated short about his love of basketball.
Kobe’s Princess, Gianna
Bryant had also begun to pass his love of the game onto his daughter, Gianna. “Gigi” was the second of four children to Kobe Bryant and was born May 1, 2006. As a young child, Gigi became a fixture at Lakers basketball games to cheer on her dad.
As GiGi grew into a young teen, her love for basketball grew. She began playing competitive ball year-round, with her father helping to coach her team. During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel, Kobe said that Gigi “for sure” wanted to play in the WNBA someday.
Her father said, “The best thing that happens is when we go out and she’ll be standing next to me and fans will come up to me like ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy, you and (Vanessa) gotta have a boy — somebody to carry on the legacy and the tradition’ and (Gigi) will be like ‘Oy, I got this. We don’t need a boy for that. I got this!'”
And while the father and daughter died en route to doing what they love, they shouldn’t be remembered for this tragedy alone. In an interview with ESPN in 2015, Kobe Bryant reflected on his own legacy and how he wanted to be remembered, and it couldn’t have been said any better.
“So if I could be remembered as a person that was born with a lot of talent but did everything he could to try to overachieve and lived everyday as if he was the 12th guy on the bench — you know I think that's a very powerful message to have."