Nine-forty-seven am, Pacific Coast Time, twelve-forty-seven pm, Eastern Standard time, the official time of the helicopter crash that killed basketball great Kobe Bryant early Sunday morning near Calabasas, California became sizably more horrific, even more tragic as the day progressed when it was discovered that Bryant’s 13 year old daughter Gianna (Gigi) and seven other people, including the pilot, also perished in the accident.
Bryant, his daughter and the other passengers were headed to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California in a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter for his daughter’s AAU youth basketball game. Two of those passengers were her friends / teammates
Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester and their parents Keri and John Altobelli and Sarah Chester.
Bryant, 41, whose basketball skills made him so famous and so renouned globally that just the mention of his first name, Kobe, identified him.
He became an iconic sports figure, one of the greatest basketball players of all times, going directly to the NBA at 17 in 1996 after graduating from high school. Bryant was the 13th pick in Round 1. He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in a deal with the Lakers to get him on their roster. During his 20 years there, Bryant’s Laker teams won 5 NBA championships, three in row, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
A 2-time Finals MVP, Bryant scored 33,643 points, 25 per game, 7,047 rebounds and 6,306 assists during his career, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Bryant is the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer and the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer.
Voted to 18 NBA All-Star teams, Bryant was a 4-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, the 1997 Slam Dunk Champion, the league’s 2008 Most Valuable Player, and a 2-time Olympic gold medalist. Both numbers that he wore as a Laker, 8 first, then 24, were retired by the Lakers on December 18th, 2017.
Bryant is survived by his wife of 18 years, Vanessa, their three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, their 7 month old, his parents, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, his wife Pamela and his two sisters, Sharia and Shaya.
Jerry West, 83, the former Laker player whose image is used as the NBA logo and who, as a top executive of the team, helped orchestrate the deal to bring Bryant to the Lakers, compared Bryant’s passing to losing his young brother in the Korean War.
“The greatest Laker of all time,” is how Magic Johnson described Bryant. “He gave everything he had,” Johnson said, referencing his on court play.
“Excuse me if I’m at a loss for words, because I am,” said former player / ESPN television analyst Jalen Rose, trying to maintain his composure while talking about Bryant during a broadcast.
Tiger Woods was told of his friend’s tragic accident by his caddie after finishing the 18th hole of Torrey Pines in San Diego, California. The crowd on the greens yelled, “Do it for Mamba,” Bryant’s nickname.
“I didn’t know why the people in the gallery were saying, “Do it for Mamba,” Woods said.
Tributes to Bryant from the sports world and beyond poured in and continue. Nike’s online store has sold out of their Kobe items.
NBA teams that were on the schedule to play since his passing have taken 24 and 8 second clock violations to start their games in his honor, the numbers he wore. Players like Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie who wears number 8 has changed to number 26 in an effort by NBA players to have Bryant’s numbers retired by the league.
Boston Celtics star guard Kemba Walker who also wears 8 isn’t sure about giving up the number.
“For me, I’m thinking, ‘I’d love to honor him by wearing that number.’ Kobe played hard each and every night, and I would like to honor him by doing the same.”
“It feels like nothing will ever be big enough to truly honor Kobe Bryant.”
Players and coaches have had to hold back tears when speaking of Bryant’s accident. Seven footer Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s former teammate visibly cried while talking about their complexes friendship.
Crowds of mourners continue to gather. Flowers, Kobe jerseys with written messages and candles lie in abundance at Staples Center in L.A. where both the Lakers and the Clippers play. The league canceled their game scheduled for this past Tuesday at the request of the Lakers. Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving was so broken up after hearing the news Sunday afternoon that he left Madison Square Garden before the start of his team’s game against the Knicks that evening.
Speaking to Hall Of Farmer Walt “Clyde” Frazier at the start of the game, broadcaster Mike Breen described it as “An unbelievably sad day for the NBA.”