Remembering Mamba

Caroline Dwyer, R1 Sports Editor

The helicopter crash that caused the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven additional passengers left the world in disbelief on Jan. 26. Just over a month has passed since his death, and Bryant’s legacy continues to live on with each day.

Immediately following his death, Los Angeles mourned the loss of one of the most influential individuals of its city. Thousands gathered outside of the Staples Center with Bryant jerseys, flowers, posters and candles to pay their respects to Bryant and the others killed in the accident.

Photo by @ESPN Instagram
Mural near the Staples Center

Erica Millwater, who graduated from WHS in 2015 and lives minutes away from the Staples Center, said, “Living so close, it’s really become abundantly clear to me how much Kobe meant to the city of Los Angeles. Really beautiful murals of Kobe and Gianna have popped up all over downtown already—a signal that their memory will be remembered by the Los Angeles community indefinitely.”

The most recent effort to memorialize Bryant at the Staples Center took place on Feb. 24 to honor Bryant and Gianna’s jersey numbers. Countless influential icons spoke about Bryant, including professional basketball legends Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Diana Taurasi. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, also gave a beautiful tribute to her husband and daughter. “God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other,” she said. “He had to bring them home together.”

The NBA was greatly impacted by the death of a legend to the league and has honored Byrant in a myriad of ways. The Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs were the first teams in the league to take 24-second violations at the start of their game to honor Bryant, who wore the numbers 24 and 8; teams all around the league similarly took 24-second and 8-second violations to pay their respects to Bryant as well.

Photo by @sportscenter Instagram
Kobe Bryant winning his 5th NBA Championship in 2010

At the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 26, the league renamed the NBA All-Star Game MVP Award to the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. Additionally, team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo wore the numbers 2 and 24 respectively at the game to honor the jersey numbers of Gianna and her father.

Following his death, people all around the sports world have shared their personal stories about Bryant. Jay Williams, Jimmy Fallon and Ice Cube were some of the many individuals to speak about what Bryant meant to them. However, one of the most notable narratives shared following Bryant’s death came from ESPN sports anchor Elle Duncan. Her emotional tribute to Bryant was about their only encounter, in which he told Duncan that he was proud to be a “girl dad,” sparking the spread of #girldad on social media.

There have also been countless efforts to honor Gianna, who was only 13 years old when she was killed in the crash. The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team left a seat on their bench open in their game against Team USA on Jan. 27, where a jersey with Gianna’s number and a flower arrangement were placed in her memory; Gianna dreamed of playing for Head Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies in college.

Vanessa paid tribute to her beloved daughter as well by renaming her husband’s foundation from the Mamba Sports Foundation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, as she stated that “there is no number 24 without number 2.”

The loss of Bryant and the other passengers on the helicopter was undeniably devastating; however, despite the tragedy of Bryant’s passing, his legacy as both a basketball player and a devoted husband and father will continue to be honored and remembered for many years to come.