In the morning of Jan. 26th, a helicopter transporting Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and 7 others crashed into a mountain in Calabasas, catching on fire. Two days later, on Jan. 28th, the bodies were identified by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Through the use of fingerprints, the department provided a positive identification of Bryant’s remains. The Black Mamba had passed to now belong to the ages.
Bryant was born in the city of Philadelphia to former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. After spending his childhood in Italy, where Bryant’s father played basketball following his retirement from the NBA in the early-80s, Bryant returned to Philadelphia, where he was enrolled in Lower Merion High School.
In 1996, Bryant was drafted into the NBA by the Charlotte Hornets, and was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of regular season play. He would wear the purple and gold for the entirety of his 20-year career.
After struggling during his first few seasons in the league, Bryant formed part of one of the most formidable and dominating duos in the sports history, with fellow Laker Shaquile O’Neal. Together they brought the NBA championship to the city of Angels three consecutive years (2000-2002), a feat previously accomplished by the Chicago Bulls, with Michael Jordan in command.
Following a failed attempt at obtaining another championship ring, the Lakers traded O’Neal, making the Black Mamba the cornerstone of the organization. Bryant would again lead the Lakers to the promised land in 2009 and 2010.
Though one of the most successful NBA players of all-time, Bryant was not without controversy. In 2003, the late-star was accused of sexual assault by a hotel clerk in Colorado, and criminal charges were mounted against him. However, after the accuser refused to testify, the charges were dropped, and Bryant settled a civil lawsuit out of court. This accusation forever tarnished the basketball giant’s public image and led to the loss of several multi-million dollar sponsorships.
In the sunset of his playing career, the second act of Kobe Bryant’s life seemed upwardly promising. In 2018, he published a book and won an Academy Award. Since 2014, Bryant had endeavored in several business ventures that saw the worth of his brand sky-rocket through the millions. Furthermore, since his retirement, Bryant had become keenly focused on fighting homelessness through the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
The world of sports has lost a giant whose shoulders thrusted upwards, and held in high place, the sport of basketball through the first two decades of the 21st century. Bryant was a flawed human being, with his personal and private life being an example of the price a high-profile celebrity must pay at times. Yet, throughout his playing career and his personal life, he often showed his humanity and dignity, toward his fellow players as well as those who were less fortunate than him.
Toward the end of his career, Bryant took upon referring to himself as “vino” (Wine), since as to him, his play aged like fine wine. The heartbreaking irony, however, is that his life was cut too short and the world was robbed of seeing that notion play out beyond the confines of the court. For all Kobe Bean Bryant did for the sport of basketball, and for how much he impacted the world beyond his sport, he will be forever missed.
Sources: CBS Sports, New York Times, Bleacher Report, USA Today