Today marks the first anniversary since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others but remembering Kobe Bryant in the context of this past twelve months feels both comforting and confusing. For those who followed his twenty-year NBA career, they can still hold Kobe close. It seems like just yesterday Bryant was lighting up the Staples Centre in his final season with the Lakers in 2016.
But at the same time, after everything that’s happened in 2020 news of that fateful helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas, California seems a lifetime ago. Since then the world has had to readapt, reboot and redesign itself. The COVID-19 narrative has captured global imagination, and Bryant’s passing remains a bookend at the start of a historically awful year.
On the anniversary of his passing, we are remembering Kobe Bryant, honouring the Lakers legend and examining the aftermath of his death.
January 26, 2020
It was a morning that didn’t feel different from any other. At 9:06 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant bundled into a helicopter alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six friends. They were headed for a practice basketball game in Thousand Oaks. The group decided to travel by helicopter despite heavy fog in Los Angeles.
After flying for around half an hour, the helicopter arrived above the Ventura Freeway and was headed west. The pilot, Ara Zobayan radioed to air traffic controllers to alert them that was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above clouds. In reality, the chopper was plunging toward a hillside where it crashed northwest of Los Angeles, killing all nine people aboard.
Almost immediately following the crash, fingers were being pointed at who was to blame. Many points were called into question including the pilot’s experience, the weather conditions and the helicopter’s safety features. This led to an official inquiry into the accident with the National Transportation Safety Board set to release its final report on February 9.
Few people have done more for the game of basketball than Kobe Bryant, and in the months following his death, the legacy of Black Mamba was elevated. In remembering Kobe Bryant, we honoured a man who spent his entire career with one franchise, taking the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships.
It’s a sporting cliche to say “Kobe had it all”, but annoyingly, Kobe had it all. Jump shots, defence, a basketball brain and arrogance to boot. He was our generation’s Jordan in terms of iconic moves,” said Steph Curry in an interview following Bryant’s death.
More Than A Baller
While the world will forever associate Kobe Bryant with the game of basketball, the 41-year-old lived a rich life off the court. A father of four daughters, Kobe was a dedicated family man who also maintained a deep interest in the arts.
In 2018, Bryant became the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film Dear Basketball.
Lakers do it for Kobe
For all the many tributes that have been paid to Bryant since his passing, there were none more fitting than the LA Lakers winning the 2020 NBA Championship. Lebron James led the Lakers, arguably the only man who could rival Bryant in the modern game. In a year that included the death of their greatest ever player in Kobe, as well as modified final series taking place in a bubble, the Lakers were able to overcome that adversity and capture their first title in ten years.
World Remembers #Twentyfourever
Today, social media was flooded as the world logged on to remember Kobe Bryant, Gianna, and the seven people who also passed away this time last year. From former teammates and rivals to fellow giants of sports, arts and media, it’s clear the hole left by Bryant won’t soon be filled.
I'll always wish I had one more conversation with Kobe. For all his greatness and everything he accomplished, his best days were still to come. My thoughts are with the family and friends of Kobe, Gianna, and all the others who were taken from us far too soon a year ago today. pic.twitter.com/SrZunsSqo1
— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) January 26, 2021
I can’t believe it’s been one year since we experienced the tragic loss of my brother, my friend, Kobe Bryant. It still doesn’t feel real.
Kobe was so much more than just a basketball player and he was destined for even more greatness. pic.twitter.com/l3ulx1mmaF
— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) January 26, 2021
Kobe’s wife Vanessa took to Instagram to share a heartbreaking letter from one of Gianna’s school friends.