Former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning.
Bryant, 41, was going with his 13-year-old daughter to a travel basketball game before the helicopter went down. Also aboard the helicopter were another player and parent from the travel team. The crash left no survivors, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
This tragedy took place less than 24 hours after current Lakers’ forward LeBron James surpassed Bryant for the No. 3 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. James shared the following with the media after that game:
“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school. Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling.”
He punctuated his sentiment with, “Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”
“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me,” Michael Jordan, one of Bryant’s idols, said in a statement Sunday night.
The world seemed to stand still when the news broke. Many took to Twitter to see what was happening and to voice their reactions.
“Please God don’t let this be real!” Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said.
“Can’t be true. Just can’t be. Truly truly horrific. Rest In Peace Kobe,” NFL player J.J. Watt said.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard simply said, “Wow.”
Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family.
Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed. 💙 pic.twitter.com/4Ib96yFxgg
— UConn Women’s Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 26, 2020
Bryant was a major supporter of women’s basketball and was instrumental in the popularization of the sport. He attended multiple UConn women’s basketball games, with the most recent being senior night on March 2, 2019. Rebecca Lobo had her number retired by UConn that night. Bryant was there at Gampel Pavilion with Gianna.
In a 2018 conversation with Reggie Miller in which he was trying to convince Bryant to have Gianna go to UCLA, Bryant said she was “hellbent on UConn.”
Bryant won five NBA Championships, two scoring titles and an MVP award with the Lakers during his 20-year career. Both of his NBA jerseys, No. 8 and No. 24, are retired by the Lakers organization. He also won two gold medals as a key member of the United States’ National Teams in 2008 and 2012.
It’s impossible to talk about the NBA since he was drafted in 1996 without mentioning Bryant. He was responsible for so many significant moments. The Lakers’ “three-peat,” the 1997 dunk contest, his 81-point game, his 55-point All-Star game versus Jordan, and of course, the 60-point game that he concluded his career with in 2016.
Since retiring, Bryant had kept busy in his new life away from the NBA. He had an ESPN+ show called “Detail,” won an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short “Dear Basketball,” and created a series of fantasy books for children, which became New York Times best sellers.
Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.