Mamba For Life

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Kobe Bryant won 5 NBA Championships before his retirement in 2016.

On Sunday, January 26, the world was shocked by the news of the passing of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant. The basketball star perished in a helicopter crash along with his 13 year old daughter, Gianna Maria Bryant, Gianna’s teammate, Alyssa Altobelli, her parents, John and Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Peyton Chester, and an unidentified pilot. The crash occurred in Calabasas, California, when the group was on their way to Mamba Academy. The passengers were departing from Orange Country, where they resided. Despite the foggy conditions, Bryant’s helicopter was given special clearance to fly. The model of the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76B, which CNN’s Ashley Fantz said was “a ‘very complex’ aircraft that’s meant to be flown by experienced pilots.” The helicopter was operating under “Special Visual Flight Rules”, which means they were given clearance to fly in weather conditions worse than what is considered standard.

Allen Berezovsky
Gianna Bryant, Kobe’s thirteen year-old daughter, was also one of the victim’s in tragic accident.

On January 27, the identity of the pilot was released. Bryant would only fly with pilot Ara Zobayan, 50. Bryant preferred to fly by helicopter to avoid traffic and he believed it allowed him to spend more time with his family. Zobayan was not only the pilot for Bryant, but also LA Clippers small forward and 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. At 9:39 AM, Zobayan requested flight following, but the helicopter was too low. At 9:45, the chopper crashed, taking fourteen seconds to drop, travelling 126 mph.

Mamba Mentality

Kobe Bryant is considered to be one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and the face of the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was drafted thirteenth overall in the 1996 NBA Draft, becoming the second person to be drafted out of high school. Bryant attended Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia. He was originally drafted to the Charlotte Hornets, but never played for the organization. Bryant started and finished his career with the Lakers. The “Mamba” later went on to the earn the title “All-Star” eighteen times during his twenty year career. In 2000, Bryant won his first NBA Championship, and won two more the following seasons, completing a three-peat along with Shaquille O’Neal and the rest of the Lakers. In 2008, Bryant won the title of NBA MVP. Then in 2009 and 2010, Bryant won his final two NBA Championships. Kobe Bryant ended his extensive career in 2016, scoring sixty points in a win against the Utah Jazz. Bryant is the fourth all-time leading scorer in the NBA. LeBron James had just passed Kobe on this list the night before Bryant’s tragic death.

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Kobe Bryant and Gigi

Kobe Bryant’s thirteen year old daughter “GiGi”, was also one of the passengers killed in Sunday morning’s accident. Gianna, like her father, was an out-standing basketball prodigy. Kobe said in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel that multiple people approached him about having a son to carry on his legacy. Bryant laughed and said her reply was “. . .you don’t need no boy for that, I got this.” Gianna was already planning playing in the WNBA, but first attending the University of Connecticut, better known as UConn, to play collegiate basketball. UConn is widely known for their successful women’s basketball program and producing many professional basketball players. On January 27, the Huskies played in an exhibition game against Team USA, and displayed a jersey with a number two, Gianna’s number. The program tweeted “Mambacita is forever a husky.”

Legends Never Die

Kobe and Gianna have been honored across the NBA, from players writing their names on their shoes, or getting a new tattoo. Multiple NBA games started off with a twenty-four second shot clock violation, followed by an eight second back court violation. The Brooklyn Nets left two courtside seats empty, which happened to be the same seats Kobe and Gianna were sitting when a viral video of the two was released showing Kobe explaining part of the game to his daughter. The most heartwarming memorial of all though, comes from the Los Angeles Lakers. A video tribute to Kobe Bryant was displayed on the video boards at the Staples Center, while a cello rendition of “Hallelujah” was played. Two courtside seats were also reserved for the father and daughter duo with their jersey’s on the chairs. The tribute included performances from Usher, Charlie Puth with Wiz Khalifa, and an emotional and heartfelt speech from LeBron James.

Many NBA stars have expressed their sympathies towards the Bryant family on social media including his close friends like Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. Many have stated they feel like this is a terrible nightmare they cannot wake up from. Without a doubt, the “Mamba Mentality” of Kobe Bryant will forever live on. As said by LeBron James, “In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not Forgotten.’ ”