World saddened by the loss of legendary basketball player, husband of 18 years and the father of 4 girls.
CALABASAS – The sports world got some stunning and gut-wrenching news when it was reported, and later confirmed, that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas Sunday, Jan. 26. The Los Angeles Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in the crash. Bryant, 41, and his daughter were reportedly on their way to participate in travel basketball game when the helicopter went down.
Bryant was unquestionably one of the best players and biggest icons that the NBA has ever seen as his death has sparked a strong wave of grief across the globe. Tributes immediately came in after his death from people he shared the floor with during his basketball career, those he inspired that played after him, as well as people outside of the world of basketball entirely.
All nine victims have been identified now and, of course, the Bryant family isn’t the only one coping with loss following the crash. John Altobelli, a championship baseball coach at Orange Coast College, was killed along with his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, who was a member of the team Bryant coached. Altobelli leaves behind two other children that were not on board the helicopter. Aaron Judge, Scott Kingery, Michael Lorenzen and Jeff McNeil are among the current MLB players who played under Altobelli when he managed the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League from 2012-2014.
Other victims included Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and Ara Zobayan (pilot). Mauser, a beloved wife and mother of three, served as Kobe Bryant’s assistant coach on their girls’ youth basketball team. She was also the head coach at Gianna’s school. Sarah Chester is the mother of Gianna’s teammate Payton and leaves behind a husband and twin boys in the 10th grade.
“At 9:47 a.m. Sunday morning, the Los Angeles County Fire Department received a 911 call of a potential helicopter down and a brush fire…Upon arrival, our firefighters discovered approximately a quarter-acre brush fire that resulted from a crash on the hillside,” stated Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. “Our initial response was 15 pieces of apparatus and 56 personnel.”
A brush fire caused by the crash prevented first responders from immediately getting to the site. An investigation of the crash is ongoing, and authorities say it could take days to recover the bodies.
With the news, many figures in the sports world and beyond expressed their grief over the loss.
“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.” -Michael Jordan
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.” -Barack Obama
“People don’t know this, but he was my secret coach. He pushed me and motivated me, especially toward the end of my career when I needed him most.” – Alex Rodriguez
Kobe’s passing seemed to hit especially hard for those in the Lakers organization, where he spent his entire 20-year NBA career.
“I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court. The game of basketball and our city will never be the same without Kobe.” -Magic Johnson
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.” -Shaquille O’Neal
Immediate tributes to Kobe went beyond just messages on social media platforms. No matter where you turned your attention, Bryant’s presence was felt. There were several other ways that the basketball icon was remembered after his passing. Lakers fans immediately started a memorial outside of Staples Center; Trae Young ditched his usual No. 11 and wore a No. 8 jersey to begin Sunday’s Hawks game; several NBA teams voluntarily took 24-second shot clock violations and eight-second backcourt violations as a way to honor Bryant’s jersey numbers; NFL players delivered tributes to Bryant during Sunday’s Pro Bowl, including celebrations mimicking his trademark shooting form and multiple artists, including Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men, paid tribute to Kobe at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards.
“Kobe is known for his many accolades,” says local Hemet sportswriter Kyle Headlee, who went on to write the following from his perspective.
He had Five Championships, 81 points in a single game, 33,643 career points, 1,944 career steals, 6,306 assists, eight best-selling books, one Emmy, but his biggest accomplishment can’t even be measured and that’s the millions of lives that he changed. Kobe made it a mission to help pay for kid’s college educations and host basketball camps for underprivileged children, but he also passively changed lives. Kobe taught a whole generation of kids how to have a “Mamba Mentality” Kobe was notorious for having an unmatched work ethic. He was in the gym every single day working on the same shot for hours. It is rumored that throughout his 20-year career he shot 1,000 free throws every day. 500 in the morning before breakfast and 500 before he could go to bed. Mamba Mentality is all about being dedicated, fierce, and determined. A whole generation of kids have applied Mamba Mentality to their lives, rather it was applied to sports, school, or to start a business. They tried their best to never give up on their dreams and put in the work every day.
It’s impossible to say what Kobe meant to people. Because he meant something different to so many. To some he was the greatest Laker of all time, to others he was the NBA’s biggest villain who they loved to hate on, Kobe showed that you could be a successful businessman as long as you had a determination and a vision…Kobe will go down in history as folklore that people will tell their grandchildren about. Just like how our Grandparents tell us that they walked uphill to school, both ways, in a snowstorm…We will tell our kids how Kobe scored 81 points against the Raptors, how he was the youngest player to win the dunk contest, how he dominated everybody in ISO ball situations, and how he virtually changed the game of basketball. Kyle Headlee can be found on Instagram at @kr_headlee.writes
Bryant, like most human beings, also had his up’s and down’s during his career, he was sometimes regarded as a complicated person who had a past that included a troubling allegation of sexual assault in 2003 (criminal charges were never filed, and a civil case was settled out of court). Regardless of your feelings toward the basketball legend, the fact remains that Sunday was one of the most tragic days that the sports world has seen in quite some time.
JP Raineri can be found on Instagram at @jpthemediaguy and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.