By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
One of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on the morning of January 26. Bryant, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers his entire career was a revered retired NBA legend and unforgettable Los Angeles Lakers star.
Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, was not among those on board but one of their four daughters, Gigi Bryant, was also on board. In retirement, Bryant won an Academy Award in 2018 for his animated film “Dear Basketball.” Bryant was set to headline the 2020 N.B.A. Hall of Fame nominees.
Fans immediately gathered outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles where the L.A. Lakers play to carry out a flower-adorned tribute just hours after the jolting news arrived. In addition to Bryant and his daughter Gianna, seven others lost their lives when the helicopter crashed into a densely fog-laden hillside.
Multiple media organizations reported that Bryant was among the passengers traveling onboard the helicopter on Sunday. First reports by TMZ news were initially met with disbelief and the hope the tragic news was a hoax. Soon, the tragic news was confirmed in reports by ESPN.
That news of Bryant’s death was met with feelings of devastation.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day,” wrote President Barack Obama responding to the tragic news.
“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of losing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant. I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW,” wrote Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, shaken.
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah,” O’Neal added.
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and five-time world champion. He retired in 2016. He also earned Olympic gold medals as a member of Team USA in 2008 and 2012.
The All-Star famously used a helicopter to travel for years — dating back to when he played for the Lakers. He was known for commuting from Newport Beach, CA to the STAPLES Center in DTLA in his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.
Bryant and his daughter Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa and their three daughters Natalia, Bianca, Capri. Bryant married Vanessa in 2001.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke