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NBA legend Kobe Bryant has reportedly passed away in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter GiGi, who was just 13, and several other passengers. Details on the specifics are still emerging, but the tragedy has been confirmed by multiple outlets. He was just 41 years old.
The Lakers legend was reportedly flying in a helicopter along with his daughter and the other passengers early this morning (UPDATE: CNN is reporting that there were seven others aboard the helicopter). They were reportedly headed to a basketball practice at his Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks when the vehicle crashed and caught on fire. Everyone on board reportedly died. According to TMZ, nearby witnesses heard the engine sputtering immediately prior to the crash. Authorities are actively investigating, and given the high profile nature of the case, we should start to hear more information quickly. He's survived by his wife Vanessa and his three other children.
Bryant's life, of course, will always be first remembered for his incredible contributions to the NBA. Drafted straight out of high school, the future Hall of Famer made an immediate impact with the Los Angeles Lakers. Alongside Shaquille O'Neal and later Pau Gasol, he won 5 NBA titles, two of which saw him voted the Most Valuable Player of the finals. He was also selected to 18 All-Star Games, 11 All-NBA First Teams and was voted the Most Valuable Player of the entire league in 2008. He's almost certainly one of the 10 to 15 or greatest players in the history of the NBA and depending on who you ask, he may be a lot higher than that.
All of his accomplishments on the hardwood will no doubt be covered extensively elsewhere. Here, it's worth discussing his relationship to movies. Bryant was long a vocal admirer of movies and cultivated a cultured image, which fit in well with Los Angeles. He almost played the Kevin Garnett role in Uncut Gems, and his wonderful short film Dear Basketball won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Based off a letter he wrote to the Player's Tribune announcing his retirement from basketball back in 2015, the film blends a visually interesting, almost unfinished animation style with some touching narration from Bryant. You can watch the version that was played during a special event at Staples Center below...
The thing that's so wonderful about Dear Basketball is how it conveys both dedication and passion. Kobe Bryant was by all accounts an almost fanatical worker. His training routines were widely discussed and admired during his career, and toward the end, he even used a helicopter to get back and forth from his home in Newport Beach to Staples Center and the team's other training facilities in order to stay out of LA's traffic. In fact, over the past several years of his career, he started using the helicopter so much it was considered by many to be his preferred method of travel.
For much of Kobe Bryant's career, his life off the basketball floor made headlines as well. His relationship with wife Vanessa was often a source of news stories, as was his sometimes unusual relationship with his parents. He was accused of sexual assault in 2003 and vehemently denied the allegations during a public press conference, arguing the encounter was consensual. The charges were later dropped, but many considered it the real reason he was kept out of The Academy after winning his Oscar in 2018, although a lack of experience was officially given. In recent years, he started a venture capital firm called Bryant-Stibel alongside Jeff Stibel. Together, they invested in a variety of companies including Legal Zoom, The Players Tribune, Epic Games and Alibaba.
Kobe Bryant was long considered one of the great students and teachers of the game. He cared deeply about the history of basketball and its longterm growth. He seemed to really care about his legacy and even the legacies of others around him. As such, it's only fitting that one of his last public comments and his final tweet was congratulating LeBron James for passing him on the all-time scoring list. Bryant will forever be remembered each time someone approaches one of his records. Here's to hoping each time it happens, people remember his fanatical drive to win, his competitive spirit and also the way he thought deeply about the world around him.
Not long after news of the tragedy broke, the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets game began with a touching tribute to Bryant and a moment of silence. You can watch it below...
Our thoughts go out to Bryant's surviving family members, his friends, his former teammates and all the fans who loved him. He was a true original and no one will ever be able to replace what he brought to the game.