The Los Angeles area, nation and world mourns the loss of NBA icon Kobe Bean Bryant, 41, and his basketball prodigy daughter Gianna Maria Onore, 13. They were two of nine people who passed away in a helicopter accident on Sunday.
The Lakers consulted with the League to postpone their home game against the Clippers that was to happen last Tuesday as the loss shattered the NBA world.
News of his passing permeated beyond the NBA with Green Bay Packers linebacker Za-Darius Smith honoring his life with a fade away jumper celebration during the NFL Pro Bowl. The news spread oversees where Neymar da Silva Santos Junior of the Paris Saint-German football club dedicated his second goal to Bryant during a game.
Before his Australian Open match against Rafael Nadal, tennis player Nick Kyrgios wore a Lakers no. 8 jersey. Altanta Hawks guard Trae Young changed his jersey number to eight during his game against the Washington Wizards. On Twitter, he reminisced on how Gianna told him he was her favorite player to watch.
Thoughts prayers and condolences came from known athletes and franchises alike. The Philadelphia Eagles stated that Bryant was “A champion for the ages,” Tiger Woods lauded him for his dominance on both sides of the court, Doc Rivers fought back tears when they spoke of the tragic loss.
During the Clippers’ away game against the Orlando Magic on Sunday, the Clippers committed a 24-second shot clock violation and the Magic committed an eight-second back court violation for Kobe.
The world of basketball also honored Gianna, the UConn women’s basketball team put a no. 2 jersey and a bouquet of white flowers on a seat in their bench ahead of their match up against the Team USA women’s basketball team. WNBA star Breanna Stewart had the names of all the victims written on her shoes for the match up.
Angelino Lakers fans were left reeling, gathering at the Staples Center to mourn in unison one of the greatest players to ever play basketball. Among them was Lakers point guard Quinn Cook, who had been a fan of Bryant and the Lakers growing up.
Inside the Staples Center on Sunday was the Grammy’s where tributes to Kobe, Gianna and the other seven victims took main stage. R&B icons Boys II Men and Alicia Keys sang “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Boys II Men were in attendance when Kobe made his announcement of foregoing college to play in the NBA 24 years ago at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA.
Since his retirement, many news stories consisted on Bryant passing his wisdom on in a myriad of ways, including through his ESPN+ show “Detail” and his book “Mamba Mentality.” He created the Mamba League in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club and founded the Mamba Sports Academy. He also won an Oscar for the animated short “Dear Basketball.”
In August 2016, the Los Angeles City Council declared August 24 to be Kobe Bryant Day. In December 2017, The Lakers retired his no. 8 and no. 24 jerseys.
There was no better way to see his talent and vigor than through basketball highlights of Gianna, whom he nicknamed “Mambacita” and recently got the nickname trademarked. She was ready to carry the family legacy into the next generation. They were fans of the UCONN women’s basketball team and attended their games.
Kobe and Gianna could be seen on the courtside of WNBA, NBA and college games. Kobe mentioned in an interview how Gianna requested to attend the WNBA Finals in 2016 when the L.A. Sparks battled the Minnesota Lynx.
Kobe also coached Gianna’s AAU basketball team the Mambas and posted her highlights on social media. One shows her shooting a fadeaway jumper, her father’s trademark shot that masses of opponents could not guard. He admired her curiosity of the game and the team was featured on the cover of Slam Magazine in March 2019.
Bryant worked with various WNBA and NBA athletes, including L.A. Sparks’ Candace Parker and Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard.
Both Kobe and Gianna were passionate about Basketball, Gianna was destined for the greatness that Kobe achieved.
In August 23, 1978, Kobe Bean Bryant was born to professional athlete Joe “Jelly bean” Bryant and Pam Cox-Bryant in Philadelphia. He was the youngest of three, with two older sisters Sharia and Shaya. At the age of six, Kobe traveled with his family to live in Italy so Joe can pursue his basketball career overseas.
As a young child, he would watch his father play basketball and try to emulate his moves. The family returned to Philadelphia in 1991 and Bryant returned speaking fluent Italian. Although he felt out of place at the schools he went to, he excelled on the hardwood at Lower Merion High school.
Kobe played varsity all four years at Lower Merion and spent most of his time working on his craft. This led to him making 18 points per game as a freshman and 22 points per game as a sophomore. By the end of his senior season, Kobe was the all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Pennsylvania history with 2,883 points. He was named the Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year and helped Lower Merion the Class AAAA state championship.
He soon declared for the 1996 NBA Draft where the Charlotte Hornets acquired him as the 13th overall pick. The Lakers offered Charlotte Vlade Divac for Kobe that same night and Kobe was doing a press conference at the Forum the next day.
Bryant made the All-Rookie Second Team and was a contestant in the Slam Dunk Contest. He was scoring 15.4 points per game his second season. By his fourth season, Bryant was a reliable scorer and came in second on the team in points per average. The Lakers had 67-15 record and were on their way to winning their first championship since the Showtime Era.
Kobe averaged 21.1 points during his first Championship-winning playoffs, he would improve that to 29.4 points per game during the 2001 playoffs. The 2001-2002 season was special as the Lakers were on the road to committing the most recent threepeat in NBA history.
That season, Kobe averaged 25.2 points per game and led the team in total steals. The Lakers swept the Portland Trailblazers in the first round and the New Jersey Nets in the Finals to execute the threepeat. Lakers fans rejoiced throughout Los Angeles, feeling their favorite team was invincible.
Kobe led the team with 30.0 points per game, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal coming in second (27.5 points per game) for the first time since the starting playing for the Lakers. The San Antonio Spurs knocked them out of the second round.
In the 2003-2004 season, Kobe led the team with 24 points per game and total steals. The Lakers had what it took to make a contending run in the playoffs. They bested the Minnesota Timberwolves in six games to play the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. They only won one game in the Finals and Shaq was traded to the Mami Heat at the end of the season.
Shaq leaving the Lakers made Kobe a controversial figure, many believed that he was to blame for Shaq being traded. The Lakers struggled while Shaq helped the Miami Heat to a title. Through all this, Kobe continued to show splashes of miraculous greatness.
On January 22, 2006 Kobe made history by scoring 81 points in a single game. May of the same year, his wife Vanessa gave birth to their second-born daughter, Gianna Marie Onore Bryant.
Lakers fans and NBA pundits alike wondered if Kobe could win a championship without Shaq. Meanwhile, the Lakers front office was making key roster moves to contend; they got a satisfying roster by the 2007-2008 season.
Kobe, who led in scoring and steals that season, was now flanked with three-point specialist Trevor Ariza and had experience playing with Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, and Andrew Bynum. Midseason, the Lakers acquired their final key player Pau Gasol.
They dominated the Western Conference, sweeping the Denver Nuggets and only sustaining three losses in the second round and the Western Conference Championship combined.
The Boston Celtics, with Doc Rivers at the helm, gave the Lakers problems and ultimately won the championship. After shooting at 47 percent from the field and averaging 30.1 points in the playoffs, Kobe developed a chip on his shoulder from the loss.
The Lakers cultivated a dominant 2008-2009 season with a 65-17 record. Kobe led with a 27-point scoring average that season. They only reached a Game 7 once throughout their playoff run and defeated the Orlando Magic in five games to win the Championship. Kobe was averaging 30.2 points during that playoffs run.
The Kobe/Gasol partnership proved to be a winning combination, the duo grew to be good friends while contributing the most points on the team. The Lakers returned to the playoffs in 2010 and only lost four games before reaching the NBA Finals to play against the Celtics.
The heated bout took all seven games. The Lakers trailed throughout Game 7, Kobe was 6-24 from the field, but went 11-15 from the free throw line and secured 15 rebounds. With the help of Gasol and Metta World Peace, the Lakers became back-to-back champions.
After their 2010 championship, the Lakers went on a gradual decline, Kobe played in his last playoffs in 2012. In April 2013, Kobe tore his Achilles tendon and only played six games during the 2013-2014 season after sustaining a knee injury. In December 2014, Kobe surpassed Michael Jordan as third place in the all-time leading scorers list.
In 2015, Bryant started his 20th season with the Lakers, flanked with a young core. On November 30, Kobe announced his retirement through penning the poignant poem “Dear Basketball” on the Players Tribune.
People from the NBA and beyond gave him well wishes and gifts on the road to his final game. On April 13, 2016, Kobe played his final game against the Utah Jazz. After starting off slow, Kobe scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, boosting him to a 60-point performance.
Kobe left the NBA with five championships, 15 All-Star Game Starts, two Olympic Gold Medals, 16 Christmas Day game appearances, 18 consecutive All Star selections, one NBA MVP award, four All-Star MVP awards and 11 All-NBA First Team selections.
Kobe and Gianna leave behind their immediate family: Vanessa, Natalia Diamante, Bianca Bella, Capri Kobe, and extended family: Joe, Pamela Cox-Bryant, Sharia, and Shaya.