By Jennifer Roback- News Editor
On Sunday January 26, the world wasshocked when news broke that five-timeNBA Champion and 18-time All Star Kobe Bryant, 41; and daughter Gianna, “Gigi,” Bryant, 13, were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Southern California, near Calabasas.
The seven others on-board were identified as Orange Coast College, OCC, baseball coach John Altobelli, 56; wife Kerii and daughter Alyssa, 13; Assistant Basketball Coach at an Orange County private school, Christina Mauser, 38; along with Sarah Chester, 45; daughter Payton, 13; and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, were also killed in the crash.
The New York Times reported thatZobayan, “had received approval to flythrough the controlled airspace aroundBurbank [California] even thoughweather conditions were worse thanusual standards for flying.” There werepatches of dense fog reported, andZabayan had tried to fly higher to avoidthe fog moments before the crash. Scott Daehlin, 61, also reported to the New York Times that the fog around 9:40 a.m was, “as thick as swimming in a pool of milk.”
The helicopter was on its way to the Mamba Sports Academy, where Bryant coached his daughter’s basketball team. They were supposed to host the “Mamba Cup Tournament Series” tournament. Gigi, Alyssa, and Payton were all members of the team.
Millions of celebrities and fans are mourning the loss of someone who iswidely-debated as one of the top fiveNBA players in league history. Drafted with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant spent his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was not only the youngest player at the time, but he went on to be an 18-time All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history.
Fans and NBA players, past and present, have taken to social media to send their condolences. LeBron James posted on Instagram saying: “Man sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try, I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!”
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, decided that none of his players will wear number 24 in remembrance of Bryant. Cuban released a statement following Bryant’s death stating that, “Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.”
The Grammys were held at the Staples Center, where the Lakers play their home games, on Sunday. And Lizzo kicked-off the show with a memorable tribute to the former NBA great, saying: “Tonight is for Kobe,” before performing her song “Cuz I Love You.”
Grammys host Alicia Keys followed Lizzo, in her monologue saying, “To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now, because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, are in our hearts, and are in our prayers, they’re in this building.”
During the Grammys, they held a spotlight on Bryant’s retired jerseys hanging in the Staples Center in remembrance.
UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball team paid tribute to the Bryant’s by having a jersey made for Gigi, and placing it on a chair during their game against the USA national team Monday night. In a tweet, they posted a picture of the jersey with the caption: “Mambacita is forever a Husky.” Gigi had told her dad about how she wanted to go there once she was old enough before going on to start her career in the WNBA.
Bryant is set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year. Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement that this year’s class is, “... expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.”
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, 37, and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka 3, and Capri, 7 months.