Kobe Bryant, who transitioned directly from high school to a 20-year long career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed on Sunday. He was 41. He was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash, which included his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant. The group was traveling from Bryant’s home in Orange County, California, to Thousand Oaks, just 30 miles northwest of LA. This tragedy comes just 3 years after his retirement from the NBA. While he was predominantly known for his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant’s legacy more than just the NBA.
Kobe Bryant’s Career
Bryant began his career at the age 17, after he became the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. Bryant set a precedent for future NBA players, who watched as he won five championships with the Lakers, and single handedly scored 81 points in a single game.
As the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, he was dragged by the Charlotte Hornets on behalf of the Lakers. The agreement was that Bryant would be traded to the Lakers in exchange for center Vlade Divac.
Over the next 20 seasons, Bryant earned a whopping 18 All-Star selections, a regular-season Most Valuable Player award, and two NBA finals MVP awards. He also won 5 championship rings and 2 Olympic gold medals. However, Bryant’s career was rocked in 2003 amid sexual assault allegations. The allegations were eventually dropped, and Bryant remained hugely popular among NBA fans.
Bryant was one of a handful of high schoolers to go straight into playing for the NBA, and was the first guard to do so. As he began climbing up the charts, Shaquille O’Neal nicknamed him “Showboat” thanks to his slightly brash attitude. But Bryant couldn’t be contained, no matter how hard his veteran teammates tried. After some major playoff failures, he finally broke through as a champion in his fourth season, alongside O’Neal – a partnership that would do a lot of damage to other NBA teams.
“Kobe didn’t care about night life or anything else,” said Del Harris, who coached Bryant for his first two NBA seasons, according to The New York Times in December 2017. “He only had one interest. His only focus was to be the best that he could be. And in his mind that meant challenging Michael Jordan.”
“People can argue,” Harris said, “how close he actually came, but there’s no question that he fulfilled pretty much all of his dreams.”
In the later phases of his career, Bryant began acquiring new nicknames – gifted to himself. “Black Mamba, and “Vino” became well known. Later, the helicopter trips he took to the Staples Centre in downtown LA (to avoid traffic) only added to his reputation as a bit of a mystery man.
It was the same helicopter that ultimately resulted in his untimely death, and which has led us here today.
Mamba wasn’t perfect, but he sure was a legend.
My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players. pic.twitter.com/NXsrXmCkkG
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 26, 2020
Kobe Bryant’s Family
Bryant married Vanessa Laine Bryant in 2001, and the couple went on to have four daughters together. The eldest, Natalia, was born in 2003. Gianna followed in 2006, Bianka came in 2016, and Capri is the youngest at only 7 months old.
Gianna shared her father’s passion for basketball, dreaming of heading to the WNBA one day. Gianna and Kobe Bryant are survived by Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
Kobe Bryant’s legacy is more than just the NBA. He was awarded an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2018, and was in the process of writing a children’s book with Paulo Coelho.
Saying Goodbye to Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s legacy is more than just the NBA. He was a father, an incredible athlete, and an all-rounder loved by fans and the community alike.
Jordan, his greatest contender, described Bryant as “one of the greats of the game and a creative force.” “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a brother to me. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.
Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”