Kobe Bryant, 20-year basketball superstar and 5-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, died on Sunday at the age of 41. TMZ first reported Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna Maria Onore were among the nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.
Bryant was born on Aug. 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pa. His father, Joe Bryant (a former NBA player) and his wife Pamela Cox Bryant named their son after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu. Joe’s professional basketball career would lead him and his family to move to Italy for several years in the 1980’s, where Kobe would learn to speak fluent Italian (he also was fluent in the Spanish language).
Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1996 draft from high school. The Lakers would then acquire Bryant in a trade with the Hornets. He won the Slam Dunk Contest during 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend and is the contest’s youngest winner. Bryant would be the pivotal player on five NBA championship squads from 2000-02 and 2009-10, all with the Lakers. He appeared in 18 All-Star Games (4-time All-Star Game MVP), made the All-NBA first Team 11 times, won two Olympic gold medals for the United States in 2008 and 2012, was twice the NBA regular-season scoring champion in 2006 and 2007, earned two NBA Finals MVPs (2009-10) and was regular-season MVP in 2008. Bryant — giving himself the nickname of “Black Mamba” — scored 33,643 points in his NBA career and was the first guard to play 20 seasons in the NBA. He retired after the 2015-16 season.
The Lakers retired both of Kobe’s jerseys, numbers 8 and 24. Bryant is the only player in NBA history to have multiple jerseys retired by a single franchise.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault of a young female in Colorado. Her refusal to testify in the trial resulted in no prison time for Bryant but he would later pay an undisclosed amount in a settlement to her in the civil case.
In 2018, Bryant’s animated short film, “Dear Basketball” earned him an Academy Award.
On the night before the helicopter crash, Bryant congratulated LeBron James on Twitter for passing him on the all-time scoring list.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Tributes by many well-known personalities from all over the sports world and pop culture poured in on social media after learning the news of Bryant’s shocking passing.
Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa and his children Gianna (also deceased), Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri.