In news that shocked America and the athletic world, basketball great Kobe Bryant, 41, died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Bryant was a husband and a father of four daughters, one of whom also died in the crash, according to multiple reports. Gianna Bryant was only 13 years old when she perished in the aerial disaster. The accident occurred shortly before 10:00 a.m., local time. TMZ first broke the news nationally, sending a wave of shock and sadness across the country.
Seven other individuals, including the pilot, were also killed. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office refused to publicly identify the victims, pending notification of the families.
Widely considered one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, Bryant retired from the sport in 2016 after 20 seasons. He was drafted into the National Basketball League at the age of 18, making him the youngest ever to play in the league. Bryant spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He lived in Orange County and generally traveled by helicopter to all of the team’s home games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He was en route to a basketball practice with his daughter when his helicopter went down, according to the TMZ report.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant
Bryant’s playing career has been described as legendary, with five NBA championships under his belt. All were with the Lakers. As well, Bryant won two Olympic gold medals for the U.S. He was named 18 times to an all-star team and was the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2008. Off the court, he was a successful businessman, a philanthropist and a celebrity. He was also a trainer and mentor to his basketball-playing daughter, Gianna.
Thoughts on Politics
Not known as politically outspoken, Bryant supported former President Barack Obama. In the run-up to the 2016 election, he refused to reveal publicly which way he intended to vote but implied that it would not surprise many people. “I think we don’t have to all randomly guess what side of the fence that I’m on,” Bryant said during an appearance at his Mamba Gallery just days before the election. “For those that support the opposite of what you believe my point of view – and if you know me for many years, I think you know what candidate I’m supporting – then God bless you, that’s your point of view.”
The star was passionate, however, about young people obtaining the education to make informed decisions:
“We have a democratic system. You can vote and choose what you want to support and what you don’t want to support, but having the knowledge of understanding what you’re voting for is the most important thing.”
How Kobe Became Kobe
Born in Philadelphia, PA, Bryant was the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant. He was the youngest of three children and named after the famous Japanese beef called “kobe,” but nicknamed Jellybean. Raised Roman Catholic, Bryant spent a number of years in Italy before returning to Philadelphia. He skipped college and went directly to the National Basketball Association where he quickly rose to be a star.
After stepping away from basketball, Bryant enthusiastically threw himself into a number of projects spanning sports, business, and the entertainment industry. Condolences and expressions of grief at once poured in from politicians, current and former professional athletes, and entertainment industry figures as well as from basketball fans across the country and around the globe.