Among the helicopter crash responsible for the deaths of nine people last Sunday was NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Alongside Bryant was his daughter, Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
This accident is unimaginably tragic and horrific for all nine passengers, their loved ones and the world at large. Millions are grieving and it’s not hard to see why.
Everyone on board was too young to die and everyone had families and futures to return to. For millions around the world, losing Kobe Bryant was a blow to gut. It was the loss of a legend and one who felt like a friend.
In 1996, at just 17 years old and fresh out of high school, Bryant was drafted into the NBA. During his 20-year career, Bryant went on to win five championships with the Lakers, be named All-Star Game MVP four times, score 81 points in one single game and win a gold medal with team U.S.A. at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. As NBC Sports put it, “the list goes on and on.”
From the get go, Bryant was by all means driven, ambitious and adamant on being the best. Bryant was set on “surpassing the accomplishments of the legendary Michael Jordan,” but said “I don't want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant.”
It was this work ethic and drive that established his “Black Mamba” nickname.
Jerry West, who has known Kobe since Kobe was 17, says “he always talked about this Mamba mentality. He didn’t have to create that, it was already there.”
Bryant was a basketball legend and for many, he is the greatest Laker of all time.
From his impressive basketball career, to becoming an Oscar winner for "Dear Basketball," to championing and “helping grow women’s basketball,” Kobe is a great who has affected countless lives.
But as we remember and reflect upon Kobe’s legacy during this time, we should also remember those who also passed alongside him.
Kobe was proud of being a dad, and the relationship he had with his second oldest daughter Gigi was remarkable.
Gigi Bryant was a basketball prodigy just like her dad. She had ambitions to make it to the WNBA and in the wake of their deaths, video after video has resurfaced of the two of them playing together and of Kobe speaking about Gigi’s talent. Their bond, from the time Gigi was a baby, was evident and undeniable.
Additionally on the plane was John Altobelli, a college baseball coach who coached for 27 seasons at Orange Coast College. He, his wife, Keri and daughter, Alyssa, all died last Sunday. Surviving them are their two children who lost a sibling and both parents at the same time.
Furthermore, CNN recently reported that Payton Chester, who was also on board, was the “go-to student for making new kids feel at home.” She passed alongside her mother, Sarah.
Mauser, who was picked by Kobe to coach at the Mamba Sports Academy, was also on board. Her husband recently appeared on CNN sharing heartbreaking details about the remarkable person she was.
Additionally, Kylie Jenner even posted on her Instagram that she had flown with pilot Zobayan before and described him as “such a nice man.”
Kobe, alongside everyone on that flight, is deeply missed by their friends and family. Like Kobe, their legacy lives on in the lives they touched.
In the time following this tragedy, millions struggle to fathom the loss of an icon and hero, but like the passing of all heroes, it is their legacy that stays on earth to continue their work.