Kobe left behind one of the most enduring legacies in basketball.
Kobe Bean Bryant was considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and his second oldest daughter, 13-year-old Gianna "Gigi" Maria-Onore Bryant, was following in his footsteps.
On the morning of Sunday, January 26, 2020, Kobe and Gianna died tragically along with seven other people after their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California.
According to TMZ, who was first to report the news, the father-daughter duo was en route to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. All nine people -- including eight passengers and a pilot -- have been confirmed dead, though not all identities have been released. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kobe is survived by wife Vanessa Laine Bryant and the couple's three other children: Natalia Diamante, 17, Bianka Bella, 3, and Capri Kobe, 7 months.
A Celebrated Career
Kobe played his entire 20-year career in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, during which he won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive team and named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008. The news of his passing came just after LeBron James surpassed Bryant as No. 3 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. In what will be Kobe's final tweet, he celebrated LeBron by writing, "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644." 33,643 points was Bryant's career total.
The son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, Kobe entered the NBA at the age of 18. He attended Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, where he was named the top high school basketball player in the country. Upon graduating in 1996, he was drafted and selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick. The Hornets then traded him to the Lakers.
Kobe became an instant fan favorite, even winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. By his second season, he was named an All-Star. And despite a feud between two of the team's most-esteemed players, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002.
In 2003, Kobe was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel. The athlete said he and the accuser had consensual sex, and the charge was eventually dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against the basketball star, which was settled out of court.
In the aftermath, Kobe's popularity in Los Angeles never waned.
Bryant continued to be among the top players in the league through 2013, when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Although he was able to recover from the injury, he did suffer season-ending injuries to his knee and shoulder, respectively, during the following two seasons. He retired after the 2015-16 season, citing his physical decline.
In 2010, he became the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history, surpassing Jerry West. His four All-Star MVP Awards are tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the Unites States national team. And in 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for "Dear Basketball."
Bryant was also known for his love of language and culture and was reputed to speak four languages, including Italian and Spanish.
Kobe met his future wife, Vanessa Laine, on set of a music video in 1999. By May 2000, they were engaged and married the following year on April 18 at a Catholic Church in Dana Point, California.
The Bryants never signed a prenuptial agreement, as Vanessa said her husband "loved her too much for one."
The couple's first child, Natalia, was born in 2003, followed by Gianna in 2006, Bianka in 2016 and Capri Kobe just seven months ago in 2019.
Former POTUS Barack Obama was famous for his love of basketball and struck up a friendship with Bryant -- considered one of the all-time greats of the sport -- who often visited the White House.
The NBA star went to the nation's capital in 2015 as his career was waning and Obama was leaving his tenure as leader of the free world.
"He and Obama talked at length about the end of the current chapters in their lives," according to Politico.
And the love was a two-way street, as Bryant lamented the loss of the influential politician.
"He made locker rooms more politically aware," Bryant said to the publication at the time. "Conversations changed. Obviously, now with the violence we're seeing across the country, that's something athletes are understanding more and more. He was rare. We all miss him to a certain extent."
The same year, Bryant debuted his new Nike shoe, Kobe X Elite "Commander," which the company said was inspired by the star's close relationship with the president.
"Kobe has long looked up to the commander-in-chief, and not just because of his hoops game," Nike said in a statement. "This unique collection symbolizes the President’s influence on Kobe with colors inspired by his Honolulu high school."
Obama paid tribute to his friend on Sunday after news broke of his death, writing on Twitter, "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
Who Would Carry His Legacy?
In 2018, Kobe talked to Jimmy Kimmel about his aspirations for Gigi. Way more than just a fawning father, he also served as coach to her team.
When Kimmel asked if she had any desire to play in the WNBA, her proud papa replied, "She does for sure." He went on to say his second oldest of four daughters was the first person to remind him he didn't need to have a son to carry the torch of his impact on the sport.
"The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, she'll be standing next to me and they'll be like, 'You gotta have a boy! You and [Vanessa] gotta have a boy! Gotta have someone carry on the tradition,'" Kobe told the late-night host. "She's like, 'Oy, I got this! You don't need no boy for that. I got this.'"
In a clip resurfaced after their shocking deaths, Kobe can be seen talking about one high-stakes moment during a tournament game while he was coaching Gianna and it felt like she had the pressure of the world on her shoulders.
A proud papa, Kobe is just beaming with pride as he recalls how his daughter felt the pressure of everyone watching Kobe Bryant's daughter facing a game-winning free-throw moment and just chilled, shook it off and got the job done.
Both Kobe and Gianna had every bit of confidence that his legacy would carry on in her calm and capable hands. The two were almost a staple at the Staples Center in recent years taking in basketball games together. They will be missed by friends, family, fans and her future fans alike.
Their legacies will live on forever. Rest In Peace.
He was so proud of that girl.pic.twitter.com/lChIspFtTl— Roy White III (@RDubThree) January 26, 2020
Got a story or a tip for us? Email TooFab editors at email@example.com.