The world of sport entered a state of mourning on the 26th January 2020, as the news broke that NBA legend Kobe Bryant (41) had been tragically killed in a helicopter crash, alongside his daughter, Gianna (12).
Bryant’s entourage was traveling to Gianna’s match at the Mamba Sports Academy — a facility spearheaded through Bryant’s investment — when the helicopter crashed, leaving no survivors. The victims included baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa.
NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, released a statement later that day.
It read: ‘The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.’
But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
Bryant’s career is best defined by his time for the LA Lakers, a team where he sported the No. 24 and No. 8 jerseys. Such was his influence, that both numbers were consequently retired by the Lakers following the quietus of his career; ascending an iconic and symbolic plateau in the world of sport.
When Bryant joined the Lakers at the age of 17, in 1996, the squad was built around Shaquille O’Neal, and patience and determination were key to earning his place as a member of the core rotation. Over the next two decades, he helped the team to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002 as well as earning 18 All-Star accolades and two Olympic gold medals.
Bryant retired from the Lakers in 2016 as the NBA’s third-all time scorer, with a total of 33,643 points. However, this was surpassed by LeBron James on the Sunday prior to Bryant’s tragic death.
James took to Instagram to express his inability to come to terms with the events, his caption reading: ‘I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have.’
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, his daughters, and by the sporting legacy that his successes with the LA Lakers solidified; his plosive thud of the basketball against the court, a sound that will ring true in the ears of both his disciples and his fan base.