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Sitting on the couch, chilling in my ‘snuggie’ and watching Pelé: Birth of a Legend, one of my favourite sport movies on Netflix, with my husband Sam; I was thinking this is looking to be a great Sunday night.
And then, the news came. My best friend in Canada, Ziyada Callender, a supervising producer for CTV Morning Live, messaged saying: “Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California!”
What? I turned to Sam, who is an avid basketball player that grew up watching NBA greats such as Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Celtics Larry Bird, and I shared the news. Sam was a fan of Bryant’s. He began wearing the legend’s No 8 jersey when he started playing in tournaments during his teen years.
We turned to Google and there it was. Bryant, 41, had passed away in a horrific helicopter crash.
The cause of the crash was unknown and an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board could take months. His Sikorsky S-76 craft went down in low clouds and foggy weather shortly before 10am just outside Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of central Los Angeles, sparking a brush fire, officials said.
There were no survivors and the flight’s manifest showed nine people on board.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna aka “Gigi”, were among those killed, and sent condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa.
Silver said: “He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game, with accomplishments that are legendary. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.
“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.” NBC News reported that others on board, besides the pilot, were a teammate from Bryant’s daughter’s basketball squad and a parent of the teammate. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was one of the victims and girls basketball coach Christina Mauser was another. Athletes, politicians and entertainers took to social media, posting highlights of the All-Stars greatest performances, such as his 81 points in one game where he lead the Los Angeles Lakers to victory against the Toronto Raptors.
The Black Mamba, which eventually shortened to Mamba, was deemed the second-highest scoring performer of all time in one game in NBA history, trailing Wilt Chamberlain‘s legendary 100-point game.
The Lakers were trailing by 14 points at halftime and 18 early in the third quarter before Bryant completely took over. He scored a ridiculous 55 points in the second half, including 23 in the final nine minutes of the game.
Bryant was also the third all-time top NBA scorer with 33,643 points following ex-Utah Jazz’s Karl ‘The Mailman’ Malone in second place with 36,928 points and table topper Kareem Abdul Jabbar, an ex-Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks centre, with 38,387 points.
As of last Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers James ‘The King’ LeBron passed Bryant to become the third all-time top NBA scorer with 33,655 points during his showdown against the Philadelphia 76ers. When Bryant heard the record-breaking news, he took to Twitter saying: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”
Bryant inspired LeBron when he was a child at a youth basketball camp. In San Antonio, the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire on each of their first possessions as a way to pay homage to Bryant’s jersey No 24. Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, said: “He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
Abdul Jabbar said on Twitter: “Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.” Fans gathered near the Staples Centre in downtown LA with a wreath carrying the message: “Kobe we love you RIP.” Some were wearing No 24 and No 8 jerseys.
Former US president, Barack Obama said on Twitter: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.”
Former Lakers legend Earvin Magic Johnson said on Twitter: “I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken.”
Bryant’s former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, also said on Twitter: “There are no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi and my brother @kobebryant. I love you and you will be missed.” Still stunned by the news, myself, Sam and GulfWeekly, would also like to pass on our deepest condolences to his wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri as well as his parents. January 26 will forever be remembered as the day we lost a legend far too soon. #RIPMamba #MambaOut