Kobe Bryant – The Death of the ‘Black Mamba’
Hunter O. Lyle – Sports Editor
Early Sunday morning, a helicopter carrying nine people, including 41-year-old NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, crashed in the hills of Calabasas, Calif., killing the father and daughter as well as the other seven passengers on board.
The helicopter left at approximately 9 a.m. according to FlightRadar24.com, and was on route to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Bryant was supposed to be coaching his daughter’s team, the Lady Mambas.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 45 minutes later, the helicopter disappeared from the radar. Within hours, the helicopter in the crash was identified as the same Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that Bryant’s group took off in earlier that day.
Among Bryant and his daughter were long-time baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, 46, and their daughter Alyssa, 13, as well as Lady Mamba’s assistant coach Christina Mauser, 38. Also involved in the crash was pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, and Sarah and Payton Chester, 45 and 13 respectively.
Throughout Bryant’s 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, which started in 1996, his name became synonymous with greatness, hard work and toughness. A five-time NBA Champion — 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010 — Bryant earned his first and only Most Valuable Player Award in 2008, won two gold medals for Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as being selected to 18 All-Star Games.
Over the next few days after the crash, many people around the NBA community, such as Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal and Lakers icon and NBA logo Jerry West, have come forth and spoken about Bryant’s impact not only in the NBA, but across the entire globe.
Southern’s men’s basketball head coach Scott Burrell, who played in the NBA from 1993 to 2001, said Bryant is among the most elite players to ever touch a basketball.
“[Bryant] was everybody’s idol. He’s right up there with MJ and Lebron,” said Burrell who won an NBA Championship alongside Michael Jordan in 1998. “Kobe was amazing, and everybody knew his legacy. Everybody knew how great he was, everybody knew his work ethic. I think everybody respected him on and off the court for his intelligence and play on the court.”
Towards the end of Burrell’s career, Bryant was just beginning to rise to the level of greatness that many people think of today, and Burrell, as well as the rest of the league, was made fully aware of it.
“There’s few guys you look at the schedule and you’re like, ‘I get to guard him tonight,’ and Michael and Kobe, and maybe Vince Carter in his young years, were three guys that you always worried about. Don’t get embarrassed, because at any moment they can embarrass you,” said Burrell. “I remember playing in Chicago, I was a little older and beat up but Kobe was young coming into the league and he gave us like 24 in the second half, and most of them were on me.”
Needless to say, being the global icon that Bryant was, his legacy touched and inspired millions of people around the world, regardless of their affiliation or interest in sports. From young, aspiring athletes to even professional dog trainers, a plethora of diverse voices from all corners of the world praised the man known as the ‘Black Mamba.’
On Tuesday night, the men’s basketball team at Southern stole a 69-67 comeback win against Assumption College off a buzzer beating layup. Guard Isaiah Boissard, a redshirt junior, contributed to the win by leading the team’s scoring in the first half with 16 points.
After the game, Boissard said he credited his motivation and performance partially due to Bryant.
“To be honest, [the night before the game against Assumption] I watched his farewell game, and I was like, ‘I feel like I could do that.’ I was watching him make shots and I was like, ‘I could make those shots,” said Boissard. “I mean, to be honest, his competitive nature and his mindset, I kind of try to keep that in mind. He had a great influence on a lot of different players.”