Three Chronicle editors reflect on the life and legacy of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
The story of Kobe Bryant can’t be mentioned without first talking about the other victims of the horrific crash. John (56), Keri (46), and Alyssa Altobelli (13), Christina Mauser (38), pilot Ara Zobayan (50), Gianna (13) and Kobe Bryant (41) were all killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
Kobe Bryant provided memories and relationships not only from his time on the court, but during his time off of the court. Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016, but his impact in life wasn’t from his basketball career. The sudden death of Gianna and Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves not only throughout the basketball landscape, but also the entire world. Many stars reached out to share their condolences including Rihanna, Obama, Drake, David Beckham, Peyton Manning and many others. Kobe won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” which was based on the letter he wrote announcing his retirement from basketball.
During his time away from the game, Kobe was seen with his daughter courtside at many games around the league. Gianna, at 13 years old, already showed the passion that drove her dad to greatness. She was destined to accomplish her dreams of playing for her dream school, University of Connecticut.
In an interview with Elle Duncan, Bryant admitted that his wife Vanessa wanted to try to have a boy after having three girls, but was jokingly concerned that it would be their fourth daughter. Kobe was asked how he would feel about having four girls in the house. He responded immediately, saying, “ I would have five more girls if i could. I am a girl dad.”
For me, watching Kobe was something special every time he stepped on the court. He played the game a different way. I can still remember his final game like it was yesterday. Watching him go to the free throw line late in the game against the Utah Jazz was a sight to see. Kobe went to the line with under 15 seconds to go having to shoot two free throws. Everyone watching knew he was going to sink the two free throws to get to 60 points. He was able to help the Lakers get the win, and it was only fitting that it took every point of Kobe’s final game to get the win.
As the world stood still in the wake of the death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, there were still games to be played around the league. Nearly every game that day and a few days following would begin with an eight second backcourt violation and a 24 second shot clock violation as a tribute to Kobe Bryant. All seven lives of the accident will be missed.
Kobe, no death has rocked me like this one. From elementary school where I would stay up until all hours of the night to watch the Lakers play on the western time clock (to my parent’s dismay), to the present where I admired him for using his platform to speak out against divisive hate and speak up for women’s sports; no death has rocked me like this one.
And those were my initial thoughts. Then it got worse. To learn of the loss of his daughter Gianna as well, my heart broke. ‘Gigi’ was a rising star and garnering attention from not just young female athletes, but also spectators young and old, male or female, who were excited to see how she would carry on the Mamba legacy. Oh, how long the fight for equality for women’s sports has been. And Kobe Bryant seemed to be the accelerant for this movement.
While I admired him for his social activism, especially in his retirement, I idolized him as a player. One of my favorite memories from his playing career was when he ruptured his Achilles in the fourth quarter of a game against Golden State, and remained on the floor long enough to sink the two free throws.
I admire this for two reasons. One, players today struggle to knock down free throws completely healthy, but he did it with an injury that would sideline him for months and months. And two, this moment in Kobe Bryant’s career is so reflective of his career, and life, as a whole. Kobe sacrificed countless hours training and working to better his game, and this ‘never give up’ mentality translated on the floor.
Kobe, Gigi, and all those lost in the helicopter crash will always be missed, but never forgotten.
Growing up, there were two players that brought me to the NBA and taught me to love the sport. Those two players were Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. Kobe will always be the reason I began to watch basketball, but his legacy goes way deeper. Kobe inspired me, along with an entire generation of kids to be accountable, and not to let anyone work harder than me. The generation of kids that scream Kobe anytime they throw trash away or see a beautiful fade away jump shot. Kobe quickly put the NBA on notice by becoming the youngest Slam Dunk contest champion at age 18.
Kobe was a different breed. He was not only an NBA player, but one of the most famous players to have played in NBA history. The Phill Jackson coached Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and of course Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant and O’Neal would master Jackson’s triangle offense along with a roster filled with other skilled players and they would go on to win three NBA championships in a row from year 2000 to 2002. Kobe would go on to win a total of five NBA championships, winning two more in ‘08 and ‘09.
Along with the championships, Kobe had a plethora of All-NBA selections, All-NBA defensive team selections and scoring titles. Kobe Bryant accomplished more on the basketball court than any one athlete could ever ask. However, if Kobe were here today, he would tell you that being good at basketball was not his greatest accomplishment.
Kobe’s biggest accomplishment was being a dad and a girl dad to be exact. Kobe loved being a dad to his four girls: 17-year-old Natalia, 13-year-old Gianna, 4-year-old Bianka and baby Capri, who is just 7 months old. Kobe has spent most of his post-basketball career with his family, making up for time he lost on the road. Kobe loved his daughters as much as he could. Days before his passing, there was a viral video of Kobe and his daughter Gianna having a wholesome moment courtside at a game.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of each of the nine lives that were lost during the tragic helicopter crash. Thank you Kobe for a lifetime of inspiration and memories.