On January 26, 2020, a twin-engine Sikorsky S-76 crashed in Calabasas, California. Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan all lost their lives. This news shocked the entire world. Kobe Bean Bryant was an American professional basketball player who entered the NBA after high school. He was a shooting guard and played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five NBA championships, 18-time All-Star, 15 time All-NBA team, 12-time member of the All-Defense Team, 2008 MVP, and a two time NBA Finals MVP. He led the NBA in scoring for two seasons, ranked fourth in All-Time regular-season scoring, and fourth in All-time Postseason scoring.
I gave a brief summary of all of the remarkable achievements this man accomplished before he left the world but Kobe Bryant is also the reason that many individuals now play basketball. He was a role model not only in North America but also in Italy where he grew up. He left a mark everywhere he went. He motivated and inspired others to work hard to achieve their dreams, no matter what their dreams may be.
Since that Sunday morning, many celebrities mourned the loss of the superstar along with GiGi and the seven others who lost their lives, on social media. The NBA schedule still went on despite Kobe’s death, but the players took it upon themselves to pay tribute to the Hall of Famer with a moment of silence, wearing Kobe’s jersey numbers 8 and 24, and by using up the 24-second shot clock right after jump ball.
Fans across the world paid tribute to Kobe and Gianna by painting murals on walls. Venice-based muralist Jules Muck made use of the first blank space on a side wall she saw of Pickford Market off of Washington Boulevard. University of Connecticut women’s basketball team paid tribute to Gianna by laying a #2 jersey on a chair with flowers right in front.
Lebron James, Shaq and Vince Carter spoke about the fond memories they had with Kobe. Lebron spoke about how he always looked up to Kobe and been studying his moves since he started playing the sport. Shaq always perceived Kobe as his little brother. Every player mourning this tragic loss all verbalized the same life lesson, to tell your loved ones that you love them because you never know what will happen tomorrow.
Gianna Bryant was the one who was seemingly destined to carry on her father’s legacy. People expected Kobe and his wife Vanessa to have a boy at some point but Gianna was born instead. She played for Mamba Academy where her father coach with assistant coach Christina Mauser. She was filled with so much talent and potential that Kobe knew she was the one who was destined to carry on the Bryant legacy. The last blow was finding out that Gianna was also killed in the crash along with her father. The nine passengers were on their way to Gianna, Alyssa and Payton’s game. GiGi’s love for basketball matched Kobe’s dedication and hard work.
Growing up, I remember playing 2K with my brother on our PlayStations and Xbox. I would always want to play as the Lakers because LA are my initials. I would always play as the Sacramento Kings because Chris Webber was one of my top 5 favorite NBA players. Bryant was basically almost everyone’s favorite player. I saw Kobe as one of a kind. He was so calm and collected every time I would see him on TV. His personality would always make everyone feel comfortable. He never wanted anyone to fail or to give up. He would help anyone and everyone in a heartbeat. Last month, Kobe even helped direct traffic after a car accident before help showed up. Nothing could ever stop this man from being great. He was generous, dedicated, loving and so much more. Kobe, Webber and Allen Iverson were the reason why basketball was the first sport I ever played.
When I first heard about Kobe’s death, I felt a piece of my childhood just vanish. My heart broke instantly, I called my brother crying, hysterical, because I could not believe it was happening. It was like most of us thought of Kobe as a superhero that would stay on Earth forever. The one thing I will always associate with Kobe is that if you want something you have to work for it. No matter how late, the sleepless nights, early mornings, the dedication will pay off. The pain we feel from this loss could never match up with the pain his wife, Vanessa, and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri feel. We feel pain for them; we wish we could bring back Kobe, GiGi, Payton, Christina, Alyssa, John, Keri, Sarah and Ara back to their families. But their loving souls will shine a light on their loved ones during this tragic week.
Life really hit me unexpectedly this week. With the start of the new decade, I never thought 2020 could bring this type of jab to the heart so quickly. You really never know what tomorrow will bring. For those reading this article, I hope you take the time to tell your loved ones how much you care about them. Even if you may not be in good standing with them, the issues never matter. We are put on this Earth for many reasons and those nine lives left a mark on Earth. If you have a dream, Kobe always said to never let anyone tell you that you can’t be great. Everything is possible with the right dedication and momentum that is needed to leave our mark on this planet before it’s our time.
For those of you who are religious, I ask that you continue to pray for these nine beautiful souls and their families.