The death of Kobe Bryant

A legend that transcends basketball.

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Photo credit: Elsa - Getty Images

Kobe Bryant (right) and daughter Gianna (left) at the NBA All-Star game. Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star.

Sam Graham, Layout editor

NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna were among nine who passed away Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, a city just outside of Los Angeles. The helicopter was on its way to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball tournament in which Bryant was scheduled to coach his daughter’s basketball team.
The seven other passengers on board the helicopter were baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, another player on Gianna Bryant’s basketball team; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, also a teammate of Gianna’s; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
The tragic accident occurred just before 10 a.m. PT and was first reported by the news website TMZ. In a matter of just hours, the news had spread across the nation and reactions and tributes to the crash are still pouring in.
Kobe, a five-time NBA champion retired in 2016 after a 20-year career as a professional basketball player, the longest ever by a player of his position. He was an 18-time all-star and ranks fourth in NBA history in points scored with 33,643. Kobe was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist as a member of Team USA.
Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, the second oldest of four girls, was a basketball player herself. Bryant was quoted in saying, “She’s better than I was at that age.” Kobe was seen courtside at numerous NBA games over the past year with Gianna, breaking down the game as it was playing out in front of them and explaining the ins and outs of what was going on.
It was Gianna’s dream to play college basketball for the 11-time NCAA champion University of Connecticut once she graduated from high school. Before Connecticut’s exhibition game on Monday, the team draped a No. 2 jersey, Gianna’s number, and a flower bouquet on the back of the bench to honor her.
The gesture at Connecticut is one of many heartfelt ways that fans and citizens have paid their respects to the NBA legend and his family, as well as the other passengers on board.
John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a community college in California and the father of Alyssa Altobelli, a teammate of Gianna’s was another victim of Sunday morning’s crash.
Orange Coast College baseball opened their season on Tuesday and Altobelli and his family were honored by all of the players wearing the number 14 and a shrine placed at home plate to honor the family. The team was also visited by Gerrit Cole, a player for the New York Yankees, who came to pay his respects.
When it comes to Kobe, the initial reaction of fans and citizens across the U. S. and world was disbelief, a mutual understanding that Kobe Bryant, nicknamed the Black Mamba, was invincible. A shared belief that he couldn’t die.
All NBA games played on Sunday afternoon and evening began the game by taking 24-second shot clock violations to honor the number 24 that Kobe wore in the later years of his career. Kobe wore the number to indicate the number of hours a day that a person has to work to be the best in his or her craft.
Trae Young, the point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, who looked up to Kobe as a mentor and friend, wore the number eight to honor Kobe’s number for the beginning of his career and took 24 shots in the Hawk’s game on Sunday against the Washington Wizards.
A petition has begun making its rounds across social media to make Kobe the new NBA logo. The logo is currently an outline of Jerry West, another former Laker. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has already announced that no player in the Mavericks franchise will ever wear the number 24 again and a basketball court in the Philippines was turned into a mural of Kobe holding Gianna.
Tributes have poured in from Kobe’s former teammates, other NBA stars, celebrities, and U. S. citizens as a whole.
Ellen Degeneres and Jimmy Fallon both inserted heartfelt tributes to the NBA legend into their respective talk shows that jerked tears from the eyes of millions.
Longtime teammate, Shaquille O’Neal broke down in tears while delivering his tribute to the legend. “I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said during a TNT tribute to Kobe on the Staples Center floor. The NBA community as a whole, both active and past players, has been devastated by the news.
Current NBA superstar LeBron James passed Kobe on the NBA’s all-time scoring list on Saturday night put the date and Kobe was in attendance with Gianna to watch the accomplishment and congratulate James, his longtime friend and teammate on Team USA. James came to the sideline after sinking the shot to pass Kobe to give him a hug.
James was distraught after the news broke.
“I promise you I’ll continue your legacy,” James stated in an Instagram post on Monday night.
The biggest resolution from the death of Kobe has been to love your family and friends, give someone a hug, and treat everyday like it could be your last, a motto that Kobe lived by.
He coined the term Mamba Mentality meaning in his words, “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.” The phrase goes on to say, “That’s Mamba mentality. We don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same beliefs, the same drive and the same conviction as ever.”
It is widely known that despite having incredible basketball talent, Kobe rose to prominence through a work ethic like no other.
ESPN analyst and former player Jay Williams told a story about an experience he shared with Kobe prior to a game he was going to play against the Lakers. Williams planned to get to the gym four hours early to begin working out but when he got there he discovered that Kobe was already there.
“I worked out for a good hour and a half,” Williams said. “When I came off after I was done, I sat down and of course I still heard the ball bouncing. I was like, ‘This guy is still working out?’ He was in a dead sweat when I got there and he’s still going.”
It was Kobe’s undeniable work ethic and unstoppable mindset that set him apart from all of his competition and it’s his love and dedication to his family, basketball, and life as a whole that will allow his legend to live on for generations to come.

Image by: Ezra Acayan via Getty Images
A mural of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. The mural was painted on a basketball court in the Philippines.