Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others, in an unfathomable tragedy, died in a helicopter crash which left no survivors.
Kobe Bryant and eight others were on their way to Kobe’s Mamba Academy on the very foggy morning of Sunday, January 26. They were on their way to Kobe’s Mamba Academy where his daughter Gianna’s basketball team was set to play. The eight others were Bryant’s friends and part of the Mamba Academy either as coaches, players, or supportive parents.
The other passengers were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
John Altobelli was a highly respected college baseball coach who was married to his wife Keri. Their daughter, Alyssa, was a teammate of Gianna Bryant’s at the Mamba Academy.
Christina Mauser was the assistant coach of Gianna and Alyssa’s basketball team who had started to build a promising coaching career. Most importantly, she was a loving wife and mother.
Payton Chester was an eighth-grader and a member of the Mamba Academy. Her loving mother Sarah was also on the helicopter as well.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was a respected pilot. He was well-known among other athletes and celebrities as a reliable personal pilot.
Kobe Bryant was, and still is, a larger-than-life figure in the world of sports. He has been in the public eye since he attended high school at Lower Merion in Philadelphia. Bryant, who grew up in Italy, was already seen as a top NBA prospect at the age of 17. He became one of the first professional athletes to make the jump straight from high school to the pros after he graduated high school at 18–a move that would inspire many other athletes like Lebron James to do the same.
Bryant was a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Bryant himself later put it, “my Laker dreams came true” when the Charlotte Hornets traded him to the Lakers in the 1996 NBA Draft.
The young Bryant quickly made a name for himself in the league and began to construct one of the greatest careers in NBA and professional sporting history. Kobe was determined to be regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the sport by the end of his career. He took no shortcuts while achieving it.
What made Bryant better than everybody in the league was his relentless work ethic and the merciless attack mode he would tap into during games. Other players would refer to him as a “psycho.” They legitimately couldn’t understand why he was so relentless in his practice and on the court.
One of my favorite Kobe Bryant stories comes from former NBA player Jay Williams.
Williams recalls a particular game against the Lakers which he arrived three hours before he had to be there to put in some extra work before the game. When he arrived, the only other person in the whole gym was Bryant, who was already in a full-sweat, pulling off full-speed in-game moves.
Williams proceeded to work for a couple of hours but when he finished and taking off his shoes, he looked over to see Bryant still working and showing no signs of stopping. Bryant went on to drop 40 points that game.
When Williams came up to Bryant after the game to ask him why he works so hard, Bryant responded, “Because I saw you come in the gym and I wanted to show you that no matter how hard you work, I’m willing to work harder.”
Bryant was like a venomous snake on the court, showing no mercy to his victims. His style fittingly became known as the “Mamba Mentality.”
Bryant went on to play 20 seasons, all for the Los Angeles Lakers, before he retired in 2016 as a five-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, nine-time All-NBA Defensive First Team, 18-time NBA All-Star, NBA MVP, and two-time Gold Medalist.
Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in NBA history and one of the greatest athletes we have ever seen.
What was most impressive about Bryant, however, was his seamless transition from life in the NBA to his life as a retired father and husband. But “retired” just isn’t the right word for Kobe Bryant.
Immediately after he finished his NBA career, Bryant became an Oscar and Academy Award-winning writer and producer for the short film, “Dear Basketball.” The film was based off of the poem Bryant wrote in 2017 to announce his retirement from the league. This was a perfect example of the Mamba Mentality post-basketball career.
He never lost that competitive fire to be great, especially when it came being a husband and a father. He was so proud to be a father of four girls and he told everybody he could about it.
After his retirement, his daughters were all that Kobe wanted to talk about in interviews or other public appearances. His love for them was evident in everything he did.
Bryant described his middle daughter, Gianna, as being a better basketball player at the age of 13 than he was. She shared with her father the love of basketball and of course, the mamba mentality. Their relationship was so pure, and Bryant appeared to be happier than ever when he was with or talking about his girls.
Gianna loved the game and with the help of her father was working to be as great as she possibly could be. There are videos online of Gianna’s best basketball highlights. You can see her backing-down defenders and hitting them with a shimmy-shake fadeaway jumper–just like her dad.
Bryant was so happy that his daughter loved the game as he did. He often took her to NBA games on top of being her personal coach at home and at the Mamba Academy.
Gianna had so much potential to be great, and Kobe knew it, too. Her dream was to play basketball at the University of Connecticut and go on to play in the WNBA.
Bryant loved his family with all his heart. Since he was a father of four girls, he found it important that he did his best to ensure that his daughters and women all over the world have infinite opportunities to be great.
He did this by becoming an ambassador of women’s basketball and by using his platform to further equality in the sport and in the world. Bryant successfully championed growth in the WNBA after making himself the face of a movement to popularize the sport.
His work with countless young girls aspiring to be in the WNBA at his Mamba Academy inspired an entire generation of women to be great. His legacy will continue to do so for decades to come.
An unimaginable tragedy took the life of a legend, his daughter, and seven other innocent humans with so much life and love left to give.
To Vanessa Bryant and the entire Bryant family as well as the Altobelli, Mauser, Chester, and Zobayan families: we send endless amounts of love to help you get through this incredibly sad time.