On January 26th 2020, we lost one of the greatest basketball players ever: Kobe Bryant. At 41 years old and along with Gianna (his 13 year-old daughter) they were two of nine who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas California while headed towards Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy tournament for youth basketball tournament.
Bryant won 5 NBA championships, 18 All-Star selections, two Olympic gold medals, and an Academy Award during his 20-year NBA career, which culminated with him becoming the fourth-highest career scorer and inspiring millions around the globe with his skills, passion, and work ethic.
He made Los Angeles Lakers proud by becoming fourth all-time career scorer – also becoming an Academy Award recipient along the way!
This article will focus on some of the details surrounding Bryant’s crash, the tributes paid from celebrities and fellow athletes, and his legacy that remains behind.
Kobe Bryant Died in a Helicopter crash
Bryant and his daughter were traveling in a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, a luxury model often utilized to bypass traffic and reach his destinations more quickly. Ara Zobayan was an experienced pilot who had flown Bryant on multiple occasions before.
At 9:06 a.m. local time on August 16, a helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County heading north toward Thousand Oaks with low visibility conditions requiring special clearance from air traffic control to fly in low visibility conditions.
After flying around Burbank Airport for some time waiting on clearance from air traffic control before climbing back up towards John Wayne Airport to avoid another cloud layer; eventually contacting air traffic control tower and saying they were climbing to avoid another cloud layer at 9:52 am local time.
At 9:55 a.m., when its pilot advised the tower that he was climbing to 4,000 feet, all nine people on board suddenly descended and crashed into a hillside near Las Virgenes Road at 9:59 am, killing all nine individuals aboard and sparking a grassfire that spread throughout the surrounding grassy terrain. No one on the ground was injured as a result of this impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to investigate the cause of the crash, with potential contributing factors being poor weather conditions, pilot error, mechanical failure and spatial disorientation all possible contributors.
Victims: 9 Of those killed were:
- Kobe Bryant, 41, NBA legend and founder of Granity Studios and Mamba Sports Academy
- Gianna Bryant, 13, Kobe’s daughter and aspiring basketball player
- John Altobelli, 56, baseball coach at Orange Coast College
- Keri Altobelli, 46, John’s wife
- Alyssa Altobelli, 14, John and Keri’s daughter and Gianna’s teammate
- Christina Mauser, 38, basketball coach at Harbor Day School and Mamba Sports Academy
- Sarah Chester, 45
- Payton Chester, 13, Sarah’s daughter and Gianna’s teammate
- Pilot Ara Zobayan, 50
As soon as news of Bryant’s passing was reported, tributes began pouring in from celebrities and fellow athletes across social media platforms and other platforms, many expressing shock, sorrow, and admiration for Bryant’s achievements and persona.
Notable tributes include
LeBron James, who overtook Bryant as the third-highest career NBA scorer just one day prior to his death, posted an emotional tribute on Instagram: “I’m not ready but here I go.
Every time I try writing something for this post I start crying again just thinking about you… Just heard your voice again Sunday morning before leaving Philly to return back home… Never thought for one second it would be our last conversation!”
Michael Jordan, widely considered as one of the greatest basketball players of all-time and Bryant’s idol and mentor, issued a statement saying “I am deeply grieved over Kobe and Gianna’s tragic passings; words cannot express my heartbreak at their deaths. Kobe was like my little brother; one of the greats in our game and an inspiration.”
Barack Obama, former US president and avid basketball fan, tweeted his condolences on Gianna Bryant’s death: “Kobe Bryant was an icon on the court and just getting started in what would have been an equally fulfilling second act.
To lose her so early is heartbreaking to us parents; Michelle and I send our love and prayers out to Vanessa Bryant and all her family during this unbearable day.”
Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s teammate on the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, lamented on TNT: “I haven’t felt this sharp of pain in quite some time… At Bryant’s Hall of Fame ceremony we won’t be able to have those laughs anymore… These things we can never get back.”
Beyonce Knowles-Carter performed at Bryant’s farewell game in 2016, sharing photos with Gianna Bryant as she wrote on her website: “I will continue praying for your Queens & you are truly missed dear Kobe!”
Many other celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Ellen DeGeneres, Justin Bieber, Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey all paid their respects to Bryant and his family as well.
Fans gathered outside Staples Center, the Lakers home arena, to honor and mourn Bryant with flowers, candles, jerseys and posters in tribute – some even creating murals depicting Bryant and Gianna around Los Angeles.
On the day after Bryant was killed in his accident at home arena Staples Center hosted its Grammy Awards show dedicating it entirely to Bryant with host Alicia Keys saying that everyone in Los Angeles stood “heartbroken in this house that Kobe Bryant built”.
The NBA postponed the Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers match scheduled for January 28 in memory of Kobe Bryant and paid their respects by taking intentional violations such as letting their shot clock run out for 24 seconds or their backcourt violation clock run out for 8 seconds – both numbers representing his jersey numbers throughout his career.
Players also wore shoes or jerseys containing messages honoring Bryant.
Legacy on and Off the Court Bryant left an extraordinary legacy that transcended his athletic accomplishments on the court. In addition, he was an outstanding father, successful businessman, generous philanthropist and Oscar-winning filmmaker.
Bryant announced his retirement in 2016, having scored 60 points against Utah Jazz in his final game. Following this impressive performance, Bryant gave an emotional speech thanking fans, family, and teammates; concluding it with “Mamba Out!” to symbolize his killer instinct and competitive spirit he gave himself as his nickname: the Black Mamba.
After his retirement from basketball, Bryant focused his energies on Granity Studios – an entertainment media company which produces sports-inspired storytelling content.
In 2018, Dear Basketball, written and narrated by him won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film; its poem-based plot draws upon one he composed when announcing his retirement back in 2015. Bryant also published several children’s and young adult books like the Wizenard Series and Legacy and The Queen series.
Bryant also founded Mamba Sports Academy, an athletic training facility open to athletes of all ages and levels. There he coached his daughter Gianna’s basketball team; often posting videos of her playing basketball on social media as proof.
Bryant noted his desire to share his passion for the game with Gianna and other girls who wish to become professional players in order to pass it down through her generation.
Bryant was also active in many charitable causes, such as After-School All-Stars, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer.
Additionally, he established The Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF) with the intent of improving lives of young people and families through education and cultural enrichment.
Bryant will always be remembered as an influential figure in sports history, having inspired generations of both players and fans with his talent, passion, and dedication.
Once quoted: “the most important thing is trying to inspire people so that they can achieve greatness at what ever it is they choose to do”. Bryant definitely accomplished this goal and more!
FAQ: Ultimate Guide to your questions
Q: When did Kobe Bryant die?
A: Kobe Bryant died on January 26, 2020.
Q: How did Kobe Bryant die?
A: Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with eight other people.
Q: Where did Kobe Bryant die?
A: Kobe Bryant died near Calabasas, California.
Q: Who else died with Kobe Bryant?
A: The other victims were:
- Gianna Bryant (Kobe’s daughter)
- John Altobelli (baseball coach)
- Keri Altobelli (John’s wife)
- Alyssa Altobelli (John and Keri’s daughter)
- Christina Mauser (basketball coach)
- Sarah Chester
- Payton Chester (Sarah’s daughter)
- Ara Zobayan (pilot)
Q: How old was Kobe Bryant when he died?
A: Kobe Bryant was 41 years old when he died.