For me, it was a typical Sunday morning in that I was on my way to cover an event. On this day – January 26th – it was the 62nd annual GRAMMYs. As I was pulling into media parking, my text went off from a friend with two words and a question mark, “Kobe Died?”
Immediately I went to Twitter, planning to quickly dispel the rumor with a quick bit of investigation, sadly that wasn’t the case. I sat in my car for a few moments in shock. Still hoping that it wasn’t true.
Bryant and his daughter Gianna were headed to his Mamba Academy that Sunday morning when their chartered helicopter crashed in Calabasas, ca. leaving behind his wife Vanessa, their three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. Along with his parents Joe and Pam, and two sisters.
In addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, 13, the crash claimed the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.
The Grammys were held in downtown Los Angeles at Staples Center – the house that Kobe built. It was where during his 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, 5 NBA Championships were won, it’s where Kobe dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors, the sideline where Kobe sat courtside with his Giana teaching her the game. It’s the arena where his statue will surely be erected within the next year but was a foregone conclusion anyway.
Kobe was not only a Basketball legend, he was a global icon, whose impact crossed over to several areas.
His achievements are many. He was a lock to make the NBA’s Hall of Fame this year. He was an 18-time NBA all-star with five NBA championships and two Olympic gold medals. He was a regular-season MVP and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. His reputation as a sniper on the court was well earned. A two-time NBA scoring champion who finished his career as the league’s third-leading scorer. That included a record setting 81 points in a game. The 2003 final year of the Lakers three-peat run – something that still hasn’t been repeated – included one of the greatest scoring months of all time.
In Feb of ’03, he tied Michael Jordan for the fourth-longest scoring streak in NBA history by scoring 40+ points in nine consecutive games. In March 2007, he scored 50 points in four consecutive games. This is when defense was still a thing.
Post-career, Bryant got more involved in investing with his start-up. He also launched a production company in 2016. By 2018 he had become and Academy Award winner, after his love letter to the game he loved, “Dear Basketball – an animated short – won an Oscar.
He was an author, writing children’s books titled the “The Wizenard Series.”
But some of his greatest contribution will be the lessons he left on discipline and focus.
My connection with Kobe is not only as a lifelong fan of the Lakers, it’s also personal one. Living in LA, you always cross paths with athletes and celebrities. But Kobe was different. In his early days, I can count on one hand the number of times I saw Kobe out.
Later when I went to work for Nike in 2003 at the sportswear giant’s LA office. Kobe was a sneaker free agent that summer. He signed with Nike but a few weeks later, the Colorado incident took place. Once Kobe’s case was settled, we were allowed to activate a grass roots campaign for Kobe. One that focused on the city of Los Angeles and those that loved and supported Kobe. The basketball community both on court and culturally and naturally, the Black and Latino communities. Our high school basketball program would set up special clinics.