On Sunday Jan. 26, Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester and Ara Zobayan all tragically lost their lives in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California.
Bryant’s impact on the world was bigger than the game of basketball. He was an inspiration to many people around the world. His willingness to win and to be the greatest awed millions of people around the world.
Soccer star Neymar paid tribute after scoring a goal by holding up the number 24 with his hands. In the Pro Bowl Za’Darius Smith and NFC teammates, after a sack and forced fumble, did a fadeaway shot celebration, one of Bryant’s signature moves. Davante Adams honored Bryant with a touchdown celebration by holding up 24 and then doing a 360 dunk on the field goal post. Nick Kyrgios honored Bryant by wearing his jersey before a match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. AC Milan, one of Bryant’s favorite soccer clubs, honored him by placing a bouquet of purple and yellow flowers and a AC Milan no. 24 Bryant Jersey and a Kobe Bryant signed Lakers Basketball in the corner of the field. They also had a video tribute before their game against Torino FC. During the match, AC Milan fans held up a banner that read: “Rest in peace Kobe and Gianna forever together!”
Teams all across the league that played on Sunday honored Bryant by taking a moment of silence before each game, took 8 second backcourt violations, and 24 second shot clock violations. Eight and 24 were Bryant’s numbers while playing for the Lakers and have a significant value to players and fans. Trae Young wore 8 to honor Bryant and scored 45 points. Devin Booker also played with a heavy heart scoring 36 points. Young and Booker combined to score 81 points, another significant number in the legacy of Bryant, who scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
During introductions, all players on the Detroit Pistons wore 8 and 24 Bryant jerseys. The Sixers also paid tribute to Bryant by wearing 8 and 24 in warm ups and Joel Embiid was given special permission to wear 24 for the entire game. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, announced on Sunday that nobody will ever wear number 24 again in their organization. Many players have started to informally retire Bryant’s numbers. Spencer Dinwiddie announced on Twitter that he would be changing his number from 8 to 26. Terrence Ross has switched his number from 8 to 31. Quinn Cook changed his number from 2 to 28 to honor Kobe and Gianna.
Many players in the NBA started playing basketball because of Bryant.
“I started playing basketball because of Kobe after watching the 2010 NBA finals, ” Joel Embiid said in a tweet.
“I had never watched ball before that and the 2010 finals was the turning point of my life.” Bryant meant a lot to DeMar DeRozan, “Everything I learned came from Kobe. … Take Kobe away I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have love. I wouldn’t have the passion, the drive. Everything came from him.” During and after his amazing 20 year career with the Lakers Bryant worked to mentor young players around the NBA, including Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and many more.
Outside of the Staples Center, fans made a memorial for Bryant and hundreds came to pay their respects. Memorials were also built by fans at the Lakers Training Facility and at Lower Merion High School. Bryant’s 8 and 24 jerseys were hanging in the rafters during the Grammy Awards. Alicia Keys, Lizzo, Boyz II Men, DJ Khaled and Lil Nas X all paid tribute to Bryant.
In the Philippines, people paid tribute by making an amazing mural of Bryant and his daughter on a basketball court. Tons of iconic buildings and stadiums around the world illuminated the night sky with purple and yellow to honor Bryant.
Bryant had a great relationship with his daughter, Gianna, who had a bright future ahead of her. Bryant, on an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, said that he wanted Gianna to carry on his legacy. It was apparent in Gianna’s highlights that Bryant’s skills and talent for basketball had been passed down. Bryant and Gianna would regularly attend Lakers games and Bryant would teach her about the x’s and o’s of basketball. Bryant said he loved being able to see the game through the eyes of his daughter. Bryant also coached his daughter’s AAU team out of his Mamba Sports Training Facility. Gianna had always dreamed of one day playing at UConn and playing in the WNBA. The UConn women’s basketball team honored Gianna by placing a bouquet of white flowers and a no. 2 jersey on the court side seats.
Off the court, Bryant was a very kind and generous man spending countless hours with more than 250 kids from the Make a Wish Foundation. He also started, with his wife Vanessa, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which worked to help the lives of young people and their families. KVBF provides scholarships and operates Maba FC, a youth soccer club that teaches young athletes how to become leaders and independent thinkers through the power of sports. Bryant was an honorary ambassador for the After-School All Stars, a non-profit organization that partners with schools nationwide to extend school hours for low-income children. Bryant frequently gave speeches and donated money to the organizations Los Angeles Chapter. Bryant was part of a telecast that raised more than $81 million for research through Stand Up to Cancer. Kobe and Vanessa both donated at least a million dollars to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Bryant had many famous quotes, but this one really stood out, “Have a good time. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep on rolling.”
Bryant transcended the game of basketball and brought it to new heights. His work ethic was unmatched and should be a constant reminder to everyone when you work hard at something it will pay off. Bryant touched the lives of millions and his legacy will live on for generations to come. Thank you Kobe Bryant.