Today marks the 2-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death. The basketball star died in a Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash at the age of 41. Daughter Gianna “Gigi,” 13, was among those killed in the helicopter crash, according to officials. The pair was reportedly en route to Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., for one of Gigi’s travel basketball games, alongside another parent and child. There were nine fatalities in total, according to AP.
Legacy and Family
Known as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Bryant made the NBA All-Star Game twice over the course of his 20 years in the league. He won five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and one league MVP before retiring from basketball in 2016. The basketball legend was also a superstar off the court, boasting the title of certified GirlDad and family man, Bryant cared deeply about the success and wellbeing of his daughters in whatever path of life they aimed for. Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe Bryant, spoke of his kindness and patience as a coach and father in a memorial post to Instagram commemorating Kobe and Gigi’s lives. “The most patient teacher and student Always giving back. Always paying it forward.”
The world would go on to share in Vanessa’s grief, taking to social media to mourn the loss of a great basketball player and father. Now, on the anniversary of the Nike collaborator’s death, many are looking back at his life and career with fondness, remembering him for the teacher, athlete, businessman and father figure that he was.
A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. The athlete and dad of four spent many of his years dominating the court, showing the world just how fierce of a competitor he could be. Bryant is widely considered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Bryant went on to become a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team and was an 18-time All-Star. In 2008, the basketball legend was named NBA’s Most Valuable Player and went on to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 after his passing.
Outside of the NBA, Bryant was a dedicated husband of Vanessa and father; in addition to Gigi, his children include Capri Kobe, Natalia Diamante and Bianka Bella.
Immediately following Bryant’s death, many big names took to social media to remember Bryant as the quintessential family man. “As I scrolled through Kobe’s feed, and Alex and I talk memories and moments we remember about him … this is the truth that rings out the loudest … family is what matters most,” Jennifer Lopez wrote on Instagram at the time. “We are all feeling sadness from this loss, but all I can think of is that it is a grain of sand compared to what Vanessa must going through right now. I am sending all of my love and praying for you, your children and the other families involved in today’s tragic turn of events. The most unfair thing in life is to lose a child and husband on the same day. … Kobe, you meant so much to so many and we will miss you forever. Thank you for your work ethic, your inspiration and your heart.”
Post NBA Life
After retiring from the NBA, Bryant stayed near the basketball court through his role as coach to his daughters. Known as “Mambacita” in reference to her father’s nickname, Gigi had already garnered national attention for her impressive fadeaway shot.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAM_HS) January 6, 2020
Ever the proud father, Bryant often took to social media to show off Gigi’s hoops skills.
Coaching his girls’ teams was one of Bryant’s proudest roles after retiring from the Lakers.
“A valuable lesson that I can teach them is what it means to pursue excellence and the commitment level that comes with that,” he told People of being a coach in a 2017 interview. “They’re having a blast. They’ve gotten extremely, extremely good over the course of the last year and are continuing to work and get better, man. It’s been fun.”
Bryant loved having all girls, telling People: ““It’s pretty cool for me ’cause it’s Daddy’s little princesses’.”
Shaquille O’Neal said in a tweet, “Kobe was so much more than an athlete; he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own, and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah.“
In his post-NBA life, Bryant continued to sit courtside, often joined by Gigi. Bryant was also an advocate for women in basketball, telling CNN that “there are a couple of players who could play in the NBA right now.”
Bryant added that female ballers ”Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore [and] Elena Della Donne” all “could certainly keep up” with the pace of the NBA. He harbored hope that Gigi could one day make it to basketball’s highest level.
Following the death of Gigi and Kobe, Vanessa Bryant and the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation have partnered with countless charities, including the Nacy Lieberman Charaties to open three new basketball courts in Anaheim, Calif., Vanessa’s hometown and Tustin Playground in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant’s hometown. The legacy project honors the memory of both basketball players and serves as a safe space for kids to play and learn. The Nacy Lieberman Charities is an organization funded by donations in order to promote heathy living and educational opportunities for boys and girls.