There were nine people on the private helicopter when it crashed, including Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant. They were all traveling to Kobe’s Mamba Academy, located in Thousand Oaks, California.
Kobe, who leaves behind a wife and three other daughters, was 41 years old, and his legacy has undoubtedly made an indelible mark on sports and the culture.
His last message was a congratulatory post to LeBron James. On Saturday, Jan. 25, in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, James — who also went directly to the NBA from high school —became the third-highest scorer in the league by surpassing Bryant.
James only needed 18 points to pass Kobe’s 33,643 points, and in honor of him James wrote “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB,” which is Kobe’s moniker and his two NBA playing numbers.
After James’ impressive achievement, Kobe sent him a congratulatory tweet, which would be the last tweet Kobe sent before he passed.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644,” Kobe tweeted.
Kobe also posted a message on Instagram about James and wrote, “On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next. 💪🏾.”
After Saturday’s game, James spoke of Kobe for over 10 minutes and what he’s meant to him throughout his life.
“It wasn’t a dream of mine to come straight from high school at that point in time into the NBA, but I was like, ‘Wow, a 17-year-old, 18-year-old kid, being able to make that jump, that’s pretty damn cool,” James said about Kobe.
“And as I started playing more ball in high school, the things he was doing on the floor, I admired and wanted to be a part of,” added James. “I went to ABCD Camp and he came and talked to the kids that was there and I was just listening. I was trying to soak in everything I could.”
“As I got drafted, I still just admired him … I continued to admire him throughout my high school ranks,” said the Cleveland native.
Kobe’s passing obviously means a lot and it’ll mean different things to different people since he motivated many.
“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do,” Kobe once said.
Before Kobe retired in 2016, he won five championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played his entire professional career. He also made all-defensive team selections 12 times, he was selected as an All-Star 17 times and won two Olympic gold medals.
But before that, Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia. His father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, also played in the NBA.
By 1984 Joe Bryant began playing in the Italian pro league, and he took Kobe and his two older sisters, Shaya and Sharia, to Italy.
Bryant learned how to speak fluent Italian, and he also thrived at basketball in the European country, as well as soccer.
The family returned to Philadelphia in 1991, and a year later Kobe attended Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he played for the basketball team. He made the varsity squad as a freshman as well.
Kobe eventually led the high school to four consecutive state championships and would leave the school in 1996 with a total of 2,883 points. Plus, he became the all-time leading scorer in the history of southeastern Pennsylvania basketball.
“I’ll never forget what the school has done for me, what the city has done for me,” Bryant said about Lower Merion in 2007. Then at a different time, he stated that, “Lower Merion and everything associated with it made me who I am.”
Kobe was considered the top high school player in the United States by the time he was a senior, and scouts, as well as the sports media, played close attention. The hoops prodigy even took the singer Brandy Norwood to his senior prom.
Plus, the day Kobe announced he’d skip college and head to the NBA, it was a huge media event.
Then after he made the NBA decision, the then-teenager became only the sixth player in NBA history at the time to go directly to the pros from high school.
On June 26, 1996, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard was selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th pick in the first round of the NBA draft.
He was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac, and Kobe’s name would grow even bigger after he won the Slam Dunk competition in 1997.
The Philly native quickly became known as a scoring machine as well, since he could shoot from the outside if given space, and if played close up he could blow right by most defenders.
His post game, with that incredibly effective fadeaway, was also nearly impossible to stop too.
Kobe earned his first championship with the Lakers in 2000 with Shaquille O’Neal as center. Then he won two more consecutive championships in 2001 and 2002. Kobe won his last two rings after that with back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
On top of that, during Kobe’s 20 seasons with the Lakers, he had some of the most memorable games in NBA history. Like, when he made 12 three-pointers in a game against the Seattle Supersonics on January 7, 2003, or when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.
Even on his last NBA game on April 13, 2016, he went out as a winner by scoring 60 points.