25/09/2020

A player ‘in love’ with the game, he remained remarkably driven throughout his illustrious career

Kobe Bryant, a five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champion and global sports icon who retired in 2016 before adding an Academy Award to his considerable trophy case two years later, has died in a helicopter crash northwest of Los Angeles aged 41.
The aircraft, which also carried Bryants 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, crashed and burst into flames near Calabasas, California, on Sunday. There were no survivors. Bryant, whose home and post-NBA film and publishing offices were in the Orange County suburbs of Los Angeles, travelled frequently via helicopter.
Bryants wife, Vanessa, and three other daughters were not on board the aircraft, which was reportedly on the way to a youth basketball tournament in which Gianna, known as Gigi, would be playing.
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The incident sent shock waves throughout the sports and pop culture worlds, and several NBA teams commemorated Bryant during games on Sunday.
Words cant describe the pain Im feeling, former NBA superstar Michael Jordan said in a statement. I loved Kobe he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.
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Kobe Bryant: Career in pictures
1/50 Kobe Bryant: Career in pictures
NBA legend Kobe Bryant died, aged 41, in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday 26 January 2020. Four other passengers were killed in the crash, the LA County Sherrif Department have confirmed.
2/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant dunking the ball at his Lower Merion, Pa. high school gym during a practice in 1996.
3/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant, 17, smiles as he holds his Los Angeles Lakers jersey in 1996.
4/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant drives to the basket during a Lakers pre-season victory over the Dallas Mavericks in 1996.
5/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Waiting to appear in his first-ever NBA game in 1996. He was the NBA’s youngest ever player at the time.
6/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest
7/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
He remains the the youngest ever winner.
8/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Shaquille O’Neal puts his arms around teammates, Elden Campbell and Kobe Bryant as they return to play the Houston Rockets in 1999.
9/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
The arrival of Phil Jackson kick-started the Lakers to true contention.
10/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant’s image overlooks the Staples Center arena after the Lakers won the NBA Championship against the Indiana Pacers in 2000.
11/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant celebrates from atop a doubledecker bus during the Lakers victory parade in 2000.
12/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant jumps over a row of fans after saving the ball from going out of bounds in the second half of the Lakers 107-101 win over the Houston Rockets in 2001.
13/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant watching the clock run down in the final seconds of their Western Conference semi-final against the San Antonio Spurs in 2002.
14/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant would form one of the most potent one-two punches in NBA history alongside Shaquille O’Neal, winning three titles in a row from 2000 to 2002. The pair later publicly feuded and O’Neal left.
15/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Sitting next to his MVP trophy he received at the 51st NBA All-Star game in 2002.
16/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003. The charges were later dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court.
17/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Braynt changed from the No 8 to the No 24 in 2006.
18/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant goes up for a shot between the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce, left, and Al Jefferson in 2006.
19/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant attends a gathering with his fans in Shanghai during his Supernatural Asia Tour 2007.
20/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant was named the league MVP in the 2007-08 season.
21/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Winning his first Olympic gold medals as part of Team USA in 2008.
22/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant jumps for a rebound during a playoff game in 2009.
23/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Celebrating the 2008-09 title win, a series where he was named Finals MVP.
24/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
He celebrated the Lakers 2009 victory with his family.
25/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
US President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant during a ceremony honoring the 2009 NBA basketball champions at the White House.
26/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant smiles as he carries his daughter Gianna after the Lakers 2009 victory parade.
27/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Most valuable players Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal from the West team up the trophy at the NBA All-Star in 2009.
28/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Winning the title for the second year in a row, Bryant was again named Finals MVP after an epic seven-game series against the Boston Celtics.
29/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Smiling with daughters Gianna and Natalia with the MVP Trophy after his team defeated the Boston Celtics in 2010.
30/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant slam dunks against the Sacramento Kings in 2011.
31/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Playing with a ball during a sponsor’s appearance in Milan in 2011. He moved to Italy when he was six, after his father retired from NBA to play basketball at a lower level.
32/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash, arrived in 2012 but the pair struggled to gel and although the team made the play-offs they lost in the first round.
33/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant dunking the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the Western Conference Semifinals in 2012.
34/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant went to support the US women’s side at the 2012 Olympics Games against France, the day before his own final.
35/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant went on to win his second Olympic gold at the London Games.
36/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant is injured in one of the last games of 2012-13, the first of a series of injuries that saw his powers fade dramatically in his final three seasons.
37/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Daughter Natalia sitting on his shoulders during a practice session for the NBA All-Star basketball game in 2013.
38/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Speaking after announcing retirement in December 2015.
39/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant in his 18th and final All-Star game in Toronto. He was named starter for every appearance, a record.
40/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Taking his final ever shot – a free throw – late in the fourth quarter to score his 60th point against the Utah Jazz and his last at Staples Center.
41/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Balloons and confetti rain on the court following Kobe Bryant’s final game as a Laker in 2016.
42/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant retires after 20 years with the LA Lakers – the only player in NBA history to spend that long with the same franchise.
43/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant watches a tribute at AT&T Center in 2016.
44/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
With his family and city officials Bryant was honored at a council meeting with Kobe Bryant Day in 2016. With the date commemorating the 2 numbers, 8 and 24, he wore on his Lakers jersey
45/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
in Haikou in China’s southern Hainan province on September 12,
In 2017 he attended basketball teaching activities, as part of an announcement that China’s first NBA basketball school was to be opened. He believed it would improve the game in the country.
46/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Both Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers jerseys, number 8 and 24, were are retired in 2017.
47/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant with the Best Animated Short Film Award for “Dear Basketball” in 2018.
48/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
With daughter Gianna at the US national championships swimming meet in 2018. He regularly took his children to watch other sporting events.
49/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
As a World Cup ambassador, Kobe Bryant, was part of the Basketball World Cup draw in Shenzhen in 2019.
50/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Present at the finals he presented the 2019 World Cup MVP to Spain’s Ricky Rubio
1/50 Kobe Bryant: Career in pictures
NBA legend Kobe Bryant died, aged 41, in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday 26 January 2020. Four other passengers were killed in the crash, the LA County Sherrif Department have confirmed.
2/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant dunking the ball at his Lower Merion, Pa. high school gym during a practice in 1996.
3/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant, 17, smiles as he holds his Los Angeles Lakers jersey in 1996.
4/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant drives to the basket during a Lakers pre-season victory over the Dallas Mavericks in 1996.
5/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Waiting to appear in his first-ever NBA game in 1996. He was the NBA’s youngest ever player at the time.
6/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest
7/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
He remains the the youngest ever winner.
8/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Shaquille O’Neal puts his arms around teammates, Elden Campbell and Kobe Bryant as they return to play the Houston Rockets in 1999.
9/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
The arrival of Phil Jackson kick-started the Lakers to true contention.
10/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant’s image overlooks the Staples Center arena after the Lakers won the NBA Championship against the Indiana Pacers in 2000.
11/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant celebrates from atop a doubledecker bus during the Lakers victory parade in 2000.
12/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant jumps over a row of fans after saving the ball from going out of bounds in the second half of the Lakers 107-101 win over the Houston Rockets in 2001.
13/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant watching the clock run down in the final seconds of their Western Conference semi-final against the San Antonio Spurs in 2002.
14/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant would form one of the most potent one-two punches in NBA history alongside Shaquille O’Neal, winning three titles in a row from 2000 to 2002. The pair later publicly feuded and O’Neal left.
15/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Sitting next to his MVP trophy he received at the 51st NBA All-Star game in 2002.
16/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003. The charges were later dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court.
17/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Braynt changed from the No 8 to the No 24 in 2006.
18/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant goes up for a shot between the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce, left, and Al Jefferson in 2006.
19/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant attends a gathering with his fans in Shanghai during his Supernatural Asia Tour 2007.
20/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant was named the league MVP in the 2007-08 season.
21/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Winning his first Olympic gold medals as part of Team USA in 2008.
22/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant jumps for a rebound during a playoff game in 2009.
23/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Celebrating the 2008-09 title win, a series where he was named Finals MVP.
24/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
He celebrated the Lakers 2009 victory with his family.
25/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
US President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant during a ceremony honoring the 2009 NBA basketball champions at the White House.
26/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant smiles as he carries his daughter Gianna after the Lakers 2009 victory parade.
27/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Most valuable players Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal from the West team up the trophy at the NBA All-Star in 2009.
28/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Winning the title for the second year in a row, Bryant was again named Finals MVP after an epic seven-game series against the Boston Celtics.
29/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Smiling with daughters Gianna and Natalia with the MVP Trophy after his team defeated the Boston Celtics in 2010.
30/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant slam dunks against the Sacramento Kings in 2011.
31/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Playing with a ball during a sponsor’s appearance in Milan in 2011. He moved to Italy when he was six, after his father retired from NBA to play basketball at a lower level.
32/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash, arrived in 2012 but the pair struggled to gel and although the team made the play-offs they lost in the first round.
33/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant dunking the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the Western Conference Semifinals in 2012.
34/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant went to support the US women’s side at the 2012 Olympics Games against France, the day before his own final.
35/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant went on to win his second Olympic gold at the London Games.
36/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant is injured in one of the last games of 2012-13, the first of a series of injuries that saw his powers fade dramatically in his final three seasons.
37/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Daughter Natalia sitting on his shoulders during a practice session for the NBA All-Star basketball game in 2013.
38/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Speaking after announcing retirement in December 2015.
39/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Bryant in his 18th and final All-Star game in Toronto. He was named starter for every appearance, a record.
40/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Taking his final ever shot – a free throw – late in the fourth quarter to score his 60th point against the Utah Jazz and his last at Staples Center.
41/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Balloons and confetti rain on the court following Kobe Bryant’s final game as a Laker in 2016.
42/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant retires after 20 years with the LA Lakers – the only player in NBA history to spend that long with the same franchise.
43/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant watches a tribute at AT&T Center in 2016.
44/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
With his family and city officials Bryant was honored at a council meeting with Kobe Bryant Day in 2016. With the date commemorating the 2 numbers, 8 and 24, he wore on his Lakers jersey
45/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
in Haikou in China’s southern Hainan province on September 12,
In 2017 he attended basketball teaching activities, as part of an announcement that China’s first NBA basketball school was to be opened. He believed it would improve the game in the country.
46/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Both Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers jerseys, number 8 and 24, were are retired in 2017.
47/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Kobe Bryant with the Best Animated Short Film Award for “Dear Basketball” in 2018.
48/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
With daughter Gianna at the US national championships swimming meet in 2018. He regularly took his children to watch other sporting events.
49/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
As a World Cup ambassador, Kobe Bryant, was part of the Basketball World Cup draw in Shenzhen in 2019.
50/50 Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)
Present at the finals he presented the 2019 World Cup MVP to Spain’s Ricky Rubio
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act, said former president Barack Obama, who along with former first lady Michelle Obama, Bryant referred to as friends in 2018. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.
In sports and in life, Bryant was an individual whose tirelessness and competitive drive were as notable as his versatility and ambition.
Known late in his career by the nickname Black Mamba, Bryant was one of the smoothest and most dangerous shooters in a league previously dominated by Jordan, Earvin Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. When those players retired or their talents faded, Bryant took up their mantle. The 6ft 6in shooting guard was named to the NBAs all-star team in 18 of his 20 seasons, all with the Lakers, and he twice led the league in scoring. He scored 81 points during a game in 2006, the second-highest total in a game in league history.
Byrant started for the LA Lakers in 1996 aged 18 (AFP/Getty)
He and Shaquille ONeal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships, from 2000 to 2002, though perhaps more impressive was Bryants ability to push the Lakers back into the leagues championship ranks after the departures of ONeal and coach Phil Jackson, who had guided Jordans Chicago Bulls to six championships during the 1990s.
Bryant, who was one of the first players to skip college basketball and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft in 1996, modelled his game after Jordan and saw himself as the heir apparent and occasional rival to the former Bulls superstar.
I was thinking in my mind: I didnt care, Bryant said in 2017 during a podcast hosted by Geno Auriemma, the 11-time national championship coach of the University of Connecticut womens basketball team. Im going to destroy this guy. I dont care if Im 18; Im coming for blood.
Indeed, Bryants voracious competitiveness could strike some as aloofness, and his reputation as a teammate and sports role model were matters of controversy. He famously clashed with ONeal, orchestrating the fun-loving centres trade from Los Angeles in 2004 because Bryant occasionally viewed him as lazy.
Bryants image had already changed a year earlier, when an employee of a Colorado resort accused him of sexually assaulting her. Although charges were eventually dropped, a civil settlement was reached, and Bryants image as a clean-cut cultural darling was tarnished.
He would spend the next decade rebuilding his image not just as a detail-oriented perfectionist but as a person obsessed with greatness and achievement overall. He became a mentor of famous young NBA players and anonymous youngsters interested in basketballs finer points. He coached Giannas teams and would occasionally lose himself in extolling her prowess on the court, where she showed instincts and devotion that reminded him of himself.
Gianna will be standing next to me, Bryant said during a 2018 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and itll be like: And you gotta have a boy. You and [Vanessa] gotta have a boy; have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy. Shes like, I got this.
There was no doubt Bryant seemed fascinated with the concept of greatness and mastering basketballs finer points. He attended Womens National Basketball Association games and frequently commented on the highly successful womens college teams at Connecticut and Notre Dame. In one of his final public appearances, Bryant and Gianna were courtside at a Lakers game in December, with Bryant appearing to intensely break down a play to his daughter.
If his commitment to fulfilling potential sometimes rubbed peers the wrong way, it also could be infectious. After the US mens basketball teams disappointing bronze-medal performance in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Bryant was added to the team and quickly became a veteran leader. A noted early riser who, even as he passed his 40th birthday, would often be up by 5am for an intense workout or shooting session, he challenged Olympic teammates to join the Breakfast Club. Bryants group met each morning at 7 for weight training or basketball drills, and alongside fellow team leader and NBA superstar LeBron James, Team USA returned to its past dominance with gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
On Saturday, James passed Bryant on the NBAs career scoring list, and Bryants final post to his 15 million Twitter followers was a congratulations to the 35-year-old James, who has spent the past two seasons with the Lakers.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother, Bryants tweet read, with a hashtag of Jamess points total when he passed Bryant: 33,644.
Between games and workouts, Bryant was an insatiable learner on and off the court. Early in his career, he picked the brains of Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon to learn and mimic their signature basketball moves. Although Bryant had never attended college, he was nonetheless captivated by the pursuit of knowledge and lifelong improvement. He took summer school courses at UCLA after his rookie season in the NBA, and years later he invited entertainers and visionaries Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling and George RR Martin among them for in-depth discussions about their crafts.
It can seem a little obtuse, maybe, but he seemed to be interested in all of this, John Williams, the legendary film-score composer and five-time Oscar winner, said of Bryant in a 2018 interview with The Washington Post.
Bryant and 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in the crash (AP)
Although Bryant accomplished almost everything possible on the basketball court, a traditional retirement never held much appeal. A lifelong film buff who filled idle time by quoting Star Wars, The Big Lebowski or the Harry Potter movies, Bryant began imagining his next career before stepping away from his first. His basketball career had made him a millionaire a few hundred times over, but his investments in the sports drink company BodyArmour and other companies that included grooming products and artificial intelligence were positioning Bryant to again follow Jordan, this time into an exclusive club of billionaires who began their careers as athletes.
Unlike Jordan, Bryant had no intention of spending his decades after basketball earning passive income. It was during a ride aboard the Mamba Chopper, or what he called the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter he took to Lakers games, that in 2016 he conceived of an alternate world in which his stories and characters would exist. He would call that world Granity and would name his fledgling film studio the same.
There are infinite possibilities, he told The Washington Post in September 2018, and it was precisely that concept that drew him in.
During Bryants final season with the Lakers, he wrote a poem called Dear Basketball, or what amounted to a farewell to the game that made him a household name. He later adapted the poem into a nearly four-minute animated film, complete with a rousing score by Williams. It won the Academy Award for best animated short in 2018, and when Bryant took to the stage in his victory he thanked Vanessa and his three daughters in one of the four languages he claimed fluency in. (His fourth daughter, Capri, was born in 2019.)
You are my inspiration, he said first in Italian and then English before walking away with his Oscar statuette.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born in Philadelphia on 23 August 1978, before spending many of his formative years in Italy. His mother, the former Pamela Cox, was a homemaker and the sister of former NBA player Chubby Cox; his father, Joe Jellybean Bryant, was a professional basketball player who spent most of his playing and coaching career in Europe. Both parents survived him, in addition to his wife of 18 years; three daughters, Bianka, Natalia and Capri; and two sisters.
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Bryant first attracted national attention as a high school player at Lower Merion High in suburban Philadelphia, and he combined generational talent with looks and flair his date to senior prom was R&B singer Brandy perfectly suited for Hollywood.
Although his first name, at least according to Bryant mythology, was inspired by a visit to a high-end steak house, Yahoo Sports reported in 2016 that more than 14,000 boys had been named Kobe during Bryants NBA career.
As a 17-year-old, he was the No 13 pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, but he threatened to follow in his fathers footsteps and begin his career in Italy if the Hornets retained his rights. The team traded him to the Lakers, with whom he would spend his entire career and become an immediate fan favourite by winning the 1997 slam dunk contest, beginning a sensational career and fulfilling Bryants ambition for suiting up for an NBA team most famous for glitz, glamour and an era of glory known as Showtime.
The journey had begun on his familys driveway in Philadelphia, where on snowy days Bryants mother would ask him to clear the driveway. He would do so just enough to shoot hoops, sometimes putting up hundreds of shots per day as he perfected a form that would become internationally famous.
As a six-year-old boy deeply in love with you, Bryant would write nearly two decades later in his poem Dear Basketball: I never saw the end of the tunnel. I only saw myself running out of one.
The Washington Post