Sunday, January 26th, the world was stunned upon learning Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and seven others were involved in a fatal helicopter crash near Calabasas, California on their way to compete in a basketball tournament at the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.
In addition to Kobe and Gigi Bryant, other passengers aboard the Sikorsky S-76B – with tail number N72EX – included two of Gigi’s Mamba Academy teammates, their parents, and a fellow coach. Victims were identified as: Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, (who was entering his 28th season), his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa (teammate of Gianna); Harbor Day School assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser; Mamba Academy teammate Payton Chester and her mother Sarah from Orange County; and 50-year-old Huntington Beach resident and experienced pilot Ara Zobayan.
Just last month a short clip from @ESPN’s official Twitter account went viral that showed Kobe discussing a basketball game with his daughter Gianna.
News of the crash devastated friends, fellow teammates, and fans around the world, temporarily overloading Twitter on Sunday with the extreme volume of posts of heartfelt condolences for the victims. Here are just a few:
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania sent their condolences to the Bryant family as well in a series of posts on Twitter.
“Thoughts and prayers to the family of #Kobe Bryant and those who lost loved ones in today’s tragic crash. Rest In Peace,” the First Lady tweeted.
“Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating….”
“…..Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!,” President Trump continued.
LeBron explained to SportsCenter just how much Kobe meant to him, and to the sport of basketball:
“We live each day as if life is ordinary, until death shows us what an extraordinary gift each moment is. Today the death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter has jarred the world collectively into sadness, grief, and fear. A sense of helplessness.
It’s worth asking why anyone cares. People die every day. Why mourn the deaths of a star? Why is there now a guttural cry to the universe? We believe we have control over our lives and will live “normal life spans.” The untimely death of a public figure shatters these illusions. Untimely is a word that expresses our belief that we are in control, as if lifespans have a knowable path.
Children bury their parents. Parents are not supposed to bury their children.
The public’s focus will be on Kobe, naturally as he was a beloved public figure. The grief will be felt by Vanessa Bryant, whose heart has been ripped from her chest as she buries a daughter.
We live as if life is ordinary, and we must. Bills are paid and obligations as made as if tomorrow will come. The world would collapse if we always lived truly in the moment. Life is ordinary, until it’s gone.”
Kobe not only made his mark on the basketball court, but in the world of literature as well. In 2018 he authored The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, which has been described as an inspiring inside look into what Kobe considered “Mamba Mentality” and the dedication necessary to become a champion.
After retiring from the NBA, and in addition to coaching his daughter’s basketball team, Bryant embraced his passion for storytelling with multimedia company Granity Studios where he wrote and published a series of children’s books: The Wizenard Series: Training Camp (2019), Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof (2019), Legacy and the Queen (2019), and The Wizenard Series: Season One (2020).
“I created Granity Studios as a way of teaching valuable life lessons to the next generation, with whatever they hope to do,” he says. “The goal is to encourage children to develop their own inner magic and believe they can achieve the impossible and do so in a fun way,” Bryant explained.
“By making sports more ‘fun,’ we open up an entire world of valuable life skills for our children. Our stories center around sports but represent a competitive mindset about being the best at whatever it is you choose to do.”
Invariably classy, Kobe Bryant’s last tweet was a congratulatory message to friend and fellow teammate LeBron James for his achieving the record of third highest score in NBA history with 33,655 points. Bryant previously held the third position with a career 33,643 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is ranked number one with 38,387 points, and Karl Malone still firmly holds the position of second place with 36,928 points throughout the athlete’s NBA career.
“Have a good time. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep on rolling”
Kobe Bryant, CBS Interview 2008
Culttture sends our deepest condolences to all friends, family, and loved ones of the nine victims in Sunday’s crash.