Kobe and Gianna Bryant: What the world lost


(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) TNS

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — SUNDAY, JANUARY 26, 2020: Fans gather outside the Staples center to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant after news spread of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna are among 9 dead in helicopter crash in Calabasas that morning, in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2020. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Erin Howard, Staff Writer

Indescribable. The helicopter crash that took place Sunday morning in Calabasas, Calif., taking the life of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others was an indescribable tragedy.

Bryant was known to fly his personal helicopter around Los Angeles. But this time, he did not reach his destination. Bryant was on his way to his daughter’s basketball game when the aircraft crash-landed early last Sunday, as first reported by TMZ.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who was affectionately referred to as “Gigi,” her teammate Alyssa Altobelli as well as her parents John and Keri, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and the pilot Ara Zobayan all lost their lives along-side the LA legend. 

Celebrities, athletes and fans alike took to social media to mourn and reflect on the life of Kobe Bryant. The honoring of the former Laker did not stop online, however. NBA teams across the league took back-to-back 24-second shot-clock violations to begin their games that evening. Many teams also held a 24-second moment of silence prior to tipoff. The Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers took the floor in their first games following the tragedy wearing jerseys with either the number eight or 24, to honor the two numbers Kobe wore during his time in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks have officially retired the jersey number 24, releasing a statement saying, “Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the jersey number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.” Players throughout the league are following the Mavericks’ lead, unofficially retiring their jersey numbers of both eight and 24, vowing to never wear the numbers again out of respect for the man who broke records with those numbers on his back. Brooklyn Nets’ guard, Spencer Dinwiddie, is changing his jersey number from eight to 26 effective immediately.  

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team followed suit with a moment of silence and shot clock violations of their own, but added in a tribute for Gianna, who Kobe so lovingly referred to as “mambacita.” The Huskies had an honorary jersey made with her number, two, and laid it on their bench alongside a bouquet of flowers, posting it to Instagram with the caption, Mambacita is forever a Husky.” Although just 13-years-old, Gigi had a drive and basketball skillset that mirrored her father’s. She called UConn her “dream school.” She was just starting out in a basketball career that was destined to bring women’s basketball more of the respect both she and her father knew it deserved.  

Gigi was just getting started on her first act, Kobe on his second. The world was watching, excited to see it unfold.  

Kobe had been famously quoted for saying, “fast-forward 20 years from now: If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in my life, then I’ve failed,” following his retirement from professional basketball. The crazy thing is, he was on his way to doing just that, making his next 20 as remarkable as his 20 spent on the hardwood. From winning an Oscar to coaching his daughters and acting as an advocate for women’s basketball to just being a model father.

Kobe’s famous drive was shaping his second act in life in the same way it had his first. That is what makes this tragedy so indescribable. The world lost Gigi, who was just getting started, and Kobe getting started all over again. Two stories with so much more to tell, so much more the world could have learned from —cut short. 

The loss of Kobe Bryant is mourned not just by the sports world, but by anyone who admires relentless drive. His life cannot be described by any one achievement or accolade. He was the type of athlete, the type of man, who had the unique ability to create a feeling that was indescribable. That is what he will be remembered for.