Tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant


Instagram @KobeBryant

Alexandra Puga, Executive Editor

On Jan. 26, not only did the NBA lose a legend but the world suffered a great loss. Kobe Bryant, the Lakers four-time All-Star MVP, husband, father and much more was tragically killed in a helicopter crash along with eight other passengers in Calabasas, Calif. Among them was his daughter, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant.

The other passengers on board were John, Keri and Alyssa Antobelli, Sarah and Peeyton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan. The Bryants were on their way to a youth basketball tournament when the helicopter crashed due to poor weather conditions. According to the New York Times, the helicopter lacked a key warning system.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Bryant but spent much of his young life in several cities throughout Italy. His father, Joe Bryant, former NBA player, retired and brought his family overseas when Bryant was just six years old. While living abroad, he learned to speak fluent Italian.

Bryant found his love for basketball at the age of three and aspired to play in the Staples Center for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Bryant was 13, his family relocated to Philadelphia where he attended Lower Merion High School, where his American basketball career started. He was the first freshman in decades to start on varsity.

After four years of high school basketball he began to search for his future college basketball team. He was scouted by many Division 1 teams such as Duke, Michigan, North Carolina and Villanova. However instead of attending college, he joined the NBA.

After graduating from Lower Merion in 1995 he went into the 1996 NBA draft and was picked up by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th overall pick in the first round. With many back and forth talks with the Lakers, the Hornets followed up by trading him.

As a rookie, Bryant signed a three-year agreement with a $3.5 million payout. As he was 17 at the time of the contract, his parents legally had to cosign his contract with the Lakers. Bryant stayed with the Lakers for 20 years until his retirement in 2016. During his time on the team, he won five Championships. He is also recognized for his achievements on the U.S. Olympic basketball Team and NBA West. He wore numbers 8 and 24 which currently hang in the Staples Center.

Off the court Bryant was a devoted father, husband, philanthropist, writer and film creator.

He met his wife, Vanessa Laine, when he was 21 and she was 17 in November 1999 and were engaged in May 2000. They later married in April 2001. Bryant is survived by his three daughters: Natalia (17), Bianka (3), and Capri (8 months).

Byrant was also the official ambassador of the After-School All-Stars. The organization provides afterschool programs to children in 13 cities across the U.S. He and his wife also started the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation to help young people that are homeless. Additionally, Zach Braff and Bryant presented the Call of Duty Endowment with a $1 million check to help veterans’ transition to civilian life after serving.

Abroad, he started the Kobe Bryant China Fund, partnering with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation that is backed by the Chinese government. The fund raises money for education and health programs.

In 2018 Bryant became the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball”. He is also the first athlete to be nominated and win any category for the Academy. It was written and narrated by Bryant, who worked alongside director and animator Glen Keane. with music by John Williams. The film is based on Bryant’s 2015 letter announcing his retirement from basketball.

Later in 2018, Bryant opened the Mamba Sports Academy with the CEO of Sports Academy Chad Faulkner. The facility is designed to be a space for men, women and children to have access to activities. The Mamba Academy says it “educates and provides an opportunity for humans to unlock their full potential.” The facility operates a charitable foundation now called the Mamba & Mambacita Sports foundation, in honor of Gianna.

The “Mamba Mentality” is a term coined by Bryant and now used by almost every athlete. Bryant emphasized that the saying was more than just basketball. When speaking with the Amazon Book Review he said, “Mamba mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most…It’s the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit.  It started just as a hashtag that came to me one day, and it’s grown into something athletes — and even non-athletes — embrace as a mindset.” The phenomenon led to a book authored by Bryant titled The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. It discussed his mentality and how it spread throughout the league to his close friend Lebron James.

A shrine was set up in front of the Staples Center after the announcement of Bryant’s death, the same night as the Grammys. Vanessa Bryant requested all of the items be sent the Bryant family.

On Feb. 7 Gianna and Kobe Bryant were laid to rest during a private funeral service. The funeral was held at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

A public memorial service will be held Feb. 24 at the Staples Center. The date is significant as February being the second month, representing the number 2 on Gianna’s jersey, with the date representing the 24 on Bryant’s.

“Kobe Bryant’s death transcended just the sport of basketball,” University senior Amanda Velazquez said. “More than just fans of the NBA were affected by it.”