The city of Los Angeles and the entire world mourns the tragic and sudden loss of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Calabasas, CA.
Investigations are underway as authorities work to determine the cause of the fatal accident.
Among those aboard were Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa. Gianna’s teammate Payton Chester, 13, her mother, Sarah Chester, and basketball coach Christina Mauser were also onboard. Officials report there were no survivors.
Ara Zobayan, 50, has been identified as the pilot flying the S-76 helicopter. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show that Zobayan obtained his commercial pilot certificate in 2007. Online documents indicate that “Zobayan was an instrument-rated pilot, meaning that he was qualified to fly in fog conditions.”
The crew was reportedly headed to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, where Gianna and teammates were set to play in the Mamba Cup Series. Bryant co-founded the academy for professional and amateur athletes in 2018.
After 20 years of an illustrious NBA career, Kobe Bryant retired in 2016. He decided to focus on coaching his daughter’s basketball team as his way of giving back to the game.
A few weeks ago, Bryant appeared on the “All the Smoke” podcast hosted by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson where he spoke about post-retirement life.
“Coaching the kids is fun,” Bryant said. “It kind of came out of nowhere because my daughter [Gianna] just decided to play about two-and-a-half years ago. [When I] started coaching her a little bit and she made the local All-Star team- that’s where we met the rest of the girls that are now on the team. They all enjoyed playing so much, it just kind of grew into what it is now.”
Outside of coaching, Bryant didn’t appear to be retired one bit. In fact, his already tremendous work ethic only amplified off the court. Nicknamed the “Black Mamba,” Bryant is revered globally for his “Mamba Mentality.” It wasn’t just about basketball. It was a mindset required in order to achieve excellence in life and inspire others along the way.
He did exactly that in 2018 when he broke new ground winning an Oscar Award for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” Bryant operated a multimedia production company called Granity Studios where he produced podcasts, short films and children’s novels.
In a 2017 sit down interview alongside rapper Kendrick Lamar, Bryant revealed the impetus behind his motivation. He said: “If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in my life, then I’ve failed. It’s a very simple mission, very simple quest, very simple goal. These next 20 years need to be better than the previous 20. It’s as simple as that, and that is what drives me.”
Thousands of fans gathered outside the Staples Center to pay tribute, while celebrity friends and millions of others weighed in via social media. Among those included Lakers legend Jerry West, who traded for Bryant in the 1996 NBA draft. He says he looked at Bryant as a son.
Magic Johnson reacted via Twitter saying: “My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.”
Dwyane Wade called the news “one of the saddest days in my lifetime” via Instagram. UM-Dearborn alumna Raiven McDaniel said she heard the news while visiting a friend.
“By him being an icon in our culture, it hits home,” McDaniel said.
Southfield Christian assistant basketball coach Earl Swift said as it felt like “the world stopped” when he heard the news.
“He was one of the reasons I picked up a ball in the first place,” Swift said. “He was a real life superhero and superheroes not supposed to die.” He said his favorite quote from Kobe is, “I want to be the best, simple and plain.”
As of Jan. 27, a petition has been started to ensure the NBA retires both #8 and #24, the jersey numbers that Bryant wore in his career. Honoring Bryant’s legacy would mean no other players would ever be allowed to wear those numbers. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has already retired the number for future use with his team.
In less than a month into the new year, the NBA community has been rocked with the untimely deaths of former NBA commissioner David Stern, 70, and now Kobe Bryant.
In 20 seasons, Kobe Bryant’s career achievements include being a 5x NBA champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2008 MVP winner, 2x Olympic Gold Medal Winner, 18x All-Star, scoring 81 points in a game and 60 points in his final game. He now sits in fourth place on the all-time scoring list.
LeBron James passed Bryant for third place on the all-time scoring list just one day before Bryant’s passing. Sentimentally, James surpassed the mark in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia against the 76ers. Bryant made sure to send his congratulations to James in his last tweet ever, saying, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644.”
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will fully induct Kobe Bryant as part of its 2020 class in August, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic.
Bryant’s legacy cannot be summarized by his statistical outputs on the court or even his career milestones. His legacy will be the feeling and the ‘Mamba Mentality’ that he instilled in all those who were inspired by him.
Bryant entered the NBA as a 17-year-old kid straight out of Lower Merion High School. As a true warrior, he has fought hard to overcome rape allegations and a negative reputation as a selfish teammate. In his retirement, he appeared to be happier than ever while spending more time with his wife and four daughters.
Mamba Mentality means never giving up in the pursuit of excellence, no matter what arises. Thank you Kobe Bryant for inspiring us all. Mamba Forever.