Sometimes tragedies occur involving people whose loss transcends their particular occupation or profession, and that certainly was the case this past Sunday when news began spreading of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of five people, including longtime Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Bryant had become a transcendent figure both during his 20-year career and in his days after the NBA. Sadly. he and four others died in the crash at a remote field 40 miles northwest of central Los Angeles according to stories in both Reuters and the Associated Press.
Though no names were released of the others who died, it was thought at least one was one of his daughters. Bryant and his wife Vanessa have four altogether, and one of Bryant’s current roles had been serving as the coach of one of his daughter’s teams. Bryant, 41, had long preferred helicopters as a frequent means of travel, and at one time commuted to Laker games in a Sikorsk,y S-76. The U.S. Federation Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, and said both they and the National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the crash.
Bryant’s credentials as a player were impeccable. Until Saturday night, he’d been the third highest scorer in NBA history, but was passed by Lebron James during the Lakers’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers, ironically in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia. Bryant played 20 years with the Lakers, and was an NBA All-Star 18 times. He was a member of five NBA championship teams, and retired after scoring 33,643 points. He was without question not only among the greatest players in NBA history, but a Laker immortal.
“This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
Bryant was enjoying an equal impact in the worlds of cinema and publishing in the post-basketball era. He won an Oscar in 2018 for the animated short film “Dear Basketball.” The weekend edition of last week’s USA Today had not one but two Bryant stories, including a full page one about his transition to storyteller and AAU coach. ESPN had just renewed his television show “Detail” for three more years. A podcast titled “Punies” was slated to begin its third season in August, and there were also plans to expand it into an animated series.
Bryant had founded both Granity Studios to produce films and television content, and the Wizenard books line, working with authors Wesley King and Ivy Claire to publish volumes that blended fantasy, educational and athletic elements. He’d also opened a pair of training facilities along with coaching his daughter’s AAU team.
Interestingly, Kobe Bryant wasn’t much connected with the NBA since leaving the league. This year he’d been to just two games. Evemn though he still maintaining contact with former agent turned Laker general manager Rob Pelinka, as well as controlling owner Jeanie Buss and current players Lebron James and Kyle Kuzma, Kobe Bryant’s major interests were elsewhere.
But Saturday night he tweeted his congratulations to James for him surpassing his career point totals. He was far more focused on doing things that would inspire children. “Our challenge now is taking books and making them into films, feature films and in series, some of which will be animated and some of which will be live action,” Bryant told USA Today.
He’s made enormous contributions to sports, the arts and education. It’s such a shame that his life has ended at 41. But the legacy he lives behind is an impressive and extremely valuable and important one.