Gone too soon.
Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on January 26th, 2020 at the age of 41. His thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna was with him, as were seven others. Unfortunately, there were no survivors. Bryant was beloved not just by the sports community, and not just by the city of Los Angeles, but by fans across the globe. He was known for his wits, leadership, drive, and above all else, his athletic ability.
An 18-time All-Star for 18 straight games and a four-time all-star MVP, Bryant was considered one of the greatest basketball players in history. However, he continued his legacy as a writer, philanthropist, and businessman after he retired in 2016.
A graduate of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Bryant was one of only 45 players who were drafted directly out of high school, before the rules changed in 2006, prohibiting the practice. Bryant made his NBA debut in 1996 at age 17, when he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th pick but then almost immediately traded to the Lakers. He then played his entire 20-season career with the team.
The youngest of three children and the only son, Bryant was born in Philadelphia to former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox. Bryant moved with his parents and sisters to Italy when he was six, where he learned to speak fluent Italian. He fell in love with basketball early on and would come back to the United States during the summers in order to play in summer leagues.
In December of 2007, at 29-years-old, Bryant became the youngest player at the time to reach 20,000 points, in a game against the New York Knicks, and then in the 2009 season, became the youngest player to reach 25,000 points, at the age of 31. That same year, he became the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. Bryant self-penned the nickname “Black Mamba” to mimic the snake’s “ability to strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed in rapid succession,” and the nickname stuck throughout the rest of his career.
After battling several injuries during his last few seasons, Bryant decided to retire at the end of the 2015- 2016 season. He announced the news through a poem he wrote for The Players’ Tribune called “Dear Basketball”, which later became an Oscar-winning animated short film.
After his retirement, Bryant took on many other ventures. He co-founded the sports facility, Mamba Sports Academy for professional and amateur athletes in Thousand Oaks, California in 2018. The facility features five basketball courts, five volleyball courts, two beach volleyball courts, several batting cages, trainers’ room, doctor’s office, and cognition lab. That same year, he published a book titled The Mamba Mentality: How I Play about his mental approach to playing sports. His daughter Gianna was a rising basketball star in her own right, and he coached her Amateur Athletic Union basketball team the last two years before his death. In fact, he was a strong advocate for the WNBA and spoke openly about women one day being able to play in the same league as men.
The other victims in the crash include John Altobelli, who was a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, and his wife and daughter Keri and Alyssa, mother and 13-year-old daughter Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, who was a basketball coach and physical education teacher at Harbor Day School, and Ara Zobayan, who was the pilot.
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