CALABASAS - Yesterday afternoon, the shocking news that Kobe Bryant, a former guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, died at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California rocked the world.
Bryant was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Also traveling with Kobe and Gianna were Gianna's friends, Alyssa and Payton, Alyssa's parents, John and Keri Altobelli, Payton's mother and basketball coach, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan. The group was en route to a basketball practice at the Mamba Academy, per CNN. It was reported that there were no survivors from the crash.
Gianna was born in May of 2006 and she was carrying Kobe's legacy on the court. Her goal was to play basketball for the esteemed UConn women's team. The Altobellis were close family friends of the Bryants. His son is currently a scout for the Red Sox and John Altobelli coached baseball at Orange Coast College. Mauser was a coach at the Mamba Sports Academy with Bryant. Zobayan was Bryant's private pilot, who did everything possible to stop the crash, per reports.
Kobe was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers, where he played out his entire twenty-year career. It was a run that saw him win five NBA championships, two Finals MVP trophies, the 2008 NBA MVP award, and eighteen All-Star selections. His numbers, eight and twenty-four, have been retired by the Lakers and he is a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Bryant was a consummate competitor, an ambassador of basketball, and a father who led with love for his children. By all accounts and from the outpouring of support from massive Lakers fans like Jack Nicholson and Adam Levine to former teammates like Shaquille O'Neal to athletes who grew up idolizing Bryant like Saquon Barkley and Stephen Curry, Bryant was venerated beyond the amount typically reserved for athletes and basketball stars.
Bryant elevated the competition around him at all times, both on and off the court, and he was in the middle of a retirement that saw him dedicating so much of his skills and his love to his family and to women's basketball. With legends like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy still alive, it seemed like Kobe's legacy would go on for so many more years. At just forty-one years old, everyone in basketball was ready to have him around forever. That's why it all seems so shocking and so tragic. It's nine people gone before their time. Pay tribute, pay respect. Lead with love, love each other. No day is promised and each of these people made the most of their days in life.
Kobe is in the upper echelon of stars from the mid-2000s, many of whom the stars of today grew up watching. He's right there with Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, and more when one thinks of athletes who transcended their sport. It took three Kobe-level players on the Celtics just to beat him in 2008 and it still wasn't enough in 2010. That's the top level of competition. That's the top of the game. That's quite a legacy to have.
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