Kobe Bryant – The Life, Legacy, And Tragic Ending Of An Undeniable Icon
When you hear the term “Black Mamba” on Nat Geo wild, it’s safe to assume it’s a snake. However, in the world of sports, it’s no other person than Kobe Bryant. It is undeniable that he is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Kobe Bryant was a 5-time NBA champion and legend in the field of basketball who sadly passed away at the age of 41. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. During his lifetime, he broke records with his undeniable talent and made many breaking headlines on the news. After the news of his demise in a helicopter accident, the world still mourns him to this day. His daughter, 13-year-old Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, was by his side and unfortunately perished when the helicopter crashed. This is the summary of the life, legacy, and family that Kobe Bryant left behind.
An Enviable Career In The NBA
It is not news that Kobe Bryant had an excellent career. In December 2014, he surpassed Michael Jordan by making it to the third position on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He is abilities are those of a prodigy- he once scored 81 points against the Toronto raptors in a single game.
This was the second most scored points in a single NBA game and was Kobe’s highest-scoring game in his entire career. That aside, Bryant won two gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics consecutively, where he was a vital member of the US team, alongside LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony.
It is evident that Kobe was definitely a basketball icon, but he was first and foremost a family man. In 1999, he met his wife Vanessa when she was a backup dancer on the set of a Snoop Dogg video shoot. At this time, he was just 20 years old, and she was still in high school.
They got engaged when Vanessa turned 18 but didn’t get married until April of 2001. Although their marriage might not have been without its issues, it was evident that they were in love with each other, and they both loved their four daughters very much.
Many Had Doubts About The Longevity Of Their Marriage
Before the tragic demise of the NBA star, Kobe and Vanessa were married for almost 19 years, and many had doubted that their marriage would last. Considering that they were both so young when they met, they were bound to face extraordinary odds after all.
In addition to this, living in the social and media eye gave no assurance of a promising future, according to a source close to the couple. Also, Kobe’s parents did not approve of the wedding, and they went so far as to refuse to attend the ceremony and were estranged from him for years.
Basketball ran through his blood
Kobe wasn’t in the line of professional basketball players in his family. Joseph Washington “Jellybean” Bryant, his father, is now retired and played in the NBA and was the head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks team from August 2005 to April 2007.
We can say that basketball was Kobe’s destiny and was in his blood. He also started playing basketball at three years old, the moment he could hold the ball, and would watch and study NBA videos mailed to him by his grandfather.
The Journey To NBA Stardom
Kobe became a basketball star during his attendance at Lower Merion High School. He was voted National High School player of the year during his senior year by the magazine USA Today and Parade magazine. Unlike other high school students, he ended up skipping college and went on to play professional basketball as a career.
In 1996, he was picked 13th overall in the NBA draft. He appeared in his first game in November 1996 and sported the number eight on his uniform, making him the youngest player to appear in an NBA debut at just 18 years old.
The Championship Wins Begin
Kobe made many headlines throughout the years, but more respectively, he made history. He had already won five championships by the time he was 32, which is not an easy feat to accomplish. He also accumulated three successive titles between 2000-2002 (three-peat) and 2009-2010.
He led the NBA scoring ranking in two seasons and was also the first guard to play at least 20 seasons in the history of the NBA, so it’s no mistake that he was considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and now a legacy.
Close To Micheal Jordan
Most people compare Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan, although some believe that Kobe’s stats were nowhere close to Jordan’s. They shared similarities in their playing styles, and they both preferred to be in the same spot on the court.
They had similar dribble patterns, spin moves, clever footwork, and pump fakes they utilized in scoring. Although they might have butted heads on the court when Bryant joined the League in 1996, Jordan referred to him as a “younger brother,” and Kobe looked up to him.
During Kobe’s flourishing career, but started making headlines for different reasons. He was twenty-four years old when he was accused by a nineteen-year-old woman of misconduct against her and was charged with one count of felony charges.
He did admit to his infidelity. However, he claimed his “relationship” with the woman was consensual and denied ever assaulting her. For fourteen months, the case dragged on before it was eventually dropped when the accuser refused to testify in court. She later brought on a civil lawsuit and was settled out of court in 2005.
Vanessa Stood By Him
Despite Kobe’s infidelity, Vanessa Stood by him. She sat next to Kobe during a press conference in Los Angeles at the Staples Center as he professed his love for her and continued to focus on the positives in his life.
In his words, he said, “I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery. I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone.” One can only imagine the turmoil their marriage endured, but they were able to weather the storm by their love for each other.
Trending For The Wrong Reasons
He continued his career with the Lakers in the midst of the scandal. He stopped gaining credit for his efforts on the court and garnering unwanted attention because of the lawsuit he was facing, despite having played 65 games in the 2003-2004 season and averaged 25 points per game.
After the press conference in July of 2003, he refused to speak publicly about the case. This might have what came of this name after the accusations that almost ruined his professional career. However, his reputation rebounded over time.
Not long after the scandal, he began losing major endorsement deals with brands like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. Nike and Spalding, however, understood the erring of a human and retained their deals with him. McDonald’s never reconsidered their deal with him.
Coca-Cola might not have wanted to rescind their deal with him, but they did anyway after the executives decided they did not want Bryant associated with the image of their brand. They did not renew their deal with him after it expired. They later hired him to advertise vitamin water.
His Marriage Was Troubled
Kobe showed the world what a dedicated husband and father he was to Vanessa and their daughters. Soon after, the controversy surrounding the scandal died down. They might have experienced some storms in their marriage, but Kobe was devoted and committed to restoring his relationship.
He even stated that “they were going to succeed,” as this was crucial. He also said, “That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that.”
They Almost Split Up
The Bryant family ship took on more water in 2011 when Vanessa filed for divorce stating irreconcilable differences. This was ten years after their wedding. In a joint statement issued to the public, the couple started their intention towards shared custody of their children and that all other issues of their divorce were resolved privately.
Rumors began to spring up again about the couple’s attempt to reconcile after Vanessa made an appearance in 2012 at the Staples Center. Consequently, in 2013, Vanessa confirmed the rumors when she announced on her Instagram that the divorce had been called off.
His Youngest Daughter Was Only Seven Months Old
The Bryant family welcomed a bundle of joy, another daughter when then forty-year-old Vanessa gave birth to a daughter. Capri Kobe Bryant, or “Koko,” was introduced to the world by her mother, who uploaded a picture of her name embroidered on a baby blanket.
Bryant also celebrated the news himself later took to social media to announce the birth by posting, “So thankful for our newest baby blessing.” Unfortunately, he, however, passed away before little Koko clocked eight months, leaving her to learn about his legacy the left behind.
Joining The Lakers
Bryant was no doubt a talented player. Reflecting on his demise, Phil Jackson, his former Lakers coach, said, “Kobe was the chosen one — special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach and player transcended the norm. He went beyond the veil.”
His journey might have taken a different route on his draft day in ’96, even though Bryant was a top Lakers icon for a generation. He was initially selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, but he was traded immediately to the Lakers in exchange for center player Vlade Divac.
More Records Were Broken
It’s no doubt that Kobe was heavily talented. He possessed skills and techniques that made it possible for him to achieve multiple scoring records throughout his career. He earned the record for the most three-point field goals by an individual in an NBA game in January 2003 while playing against the Seattle Supersonics.
He was the youngest basketball player to have appeared in 1000 games. A record he held at 31 years old. In December 2014, during a win over the New Orleans Hornets, he became the youngest player to score thirty-thousand points in an NBA career at the age of 34.
Like any other athlete, Bryant suffered injuries throughout his career. The injuries started taking a toll in the latter days of his career from 2013 to 2015. He ended his 2012-2013 season early when he sustained an Achilles Tendon injury, which disrupted part of the 2013-2014 season, causing him to miss the first nineteen games of the season.
He ended the season just after six games, this time from an injury he sustained up to the knee. He went back to the courts the next season but got injured again later on into the season. His coach admitted to having overworked him since he was the star player.
While he was injured and trying to get well at home, he had his family by his side. He was especially lucky that his divorce was called off in January 2013, just a few months before his Achilles Tendon injury.
We can only imagine what the presence of his family by his side contributed to his healing process. The family was important for him when his body was healing. Although his last few years in his professional career were on a downward spiral, his family life was stronger than it had ever been.
Bryant was not only talented in the area of basketball. Contrary to the notion of being one of the greatest basketball players in history might present, he had talents in other areas. This was apparent when he won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for his Story “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote.
The movie was based on a letter published in 2015 when he announced his retirement and focused on Kobe’s love for basketball. The six-minute film is a touching story about his passion for the game, his passion for it since childhood, and his dream to become one of the greatest players of the game in history.
Kobe felt he needed to pursue another side of himself, and retirement provided the time he needed to do this. In his words, he felt the other side of him was endlessly rewarding, and it inspired him. This led to the founding of the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
The foundation provided financial resources and programs intending to improve the lives of needy youths. He frequently invited current NBA stars to his home after he retired to help them train. He was also a businessman and established many business ventures, one of which was called 13, as a constant reminder of his draft into the NBA in 1996 as thirteenth.
After his retirement, Kobe found other fulfilling things to do with his time. He was either taking Vanessa to Waffle House or enjoying quality time with his family. He also ran his production company, originally called Kobe studios but is now renamed Granity Studios.
Being a basketball legend, he mentored some younger stars such as Candace Parker, Russell Westbrook, and Kawhi Leonard, among others. During his retirement, he also focused on helping the youth practice basketball as well as spending more time with his daughters.
Kobe And Vanessa Bryant Foundation
Giving back to society was one of Kobe’s practices, along with his wife, Vanessa. He established what is now Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, first launched as VIVO foundation in 2007 and is still running strong to this day.
The foundation is a charity organization that provides international minority college students with scholarships. The organizing also emphasizes the importance of staying active, primarily through sports. Their goal is to make a positive impact in minority communities.
Kobe Bryant’s Sports Academy
Bryant provided support to struggling young athletes in their chosen sports. He established the Sports Academy to expand his commitment towards educating and improving the coming generation of kids through sports and spoke endlessly about how much he loved the work that was going on there.
Shortly after his passing, the academy changed its name to “Mamba and Mambacita foundation” in order for it to be less exploitive and pay its respect to the family. Also, during his life, he coached his daughter Gianna’s AAU basketball program.
His philanthropy was not limited to education and basketball sports alone. He established the Mamba FC, a division of KVBFF that trains youth soccer players. It was clear that Kobe was passionate about sports in general, not just basketball.
This club also teaches the youth how to navigate life and become independent thinkers through health and fitness. He wanted this club to focus on building a solid mentality through sports in order to face the challenges of life.
He Loved Volunteering
As though philanthropy wasn’t enough, Bryant was a volunteer member of many NGOs and foundations. The Boys and Girls Club of America and Make A Wish Foundation were also important for him. He was also the Chair of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles Honorary Walk for three consecutive years.
Additionally, he was a milestone donor for The National Museum of African American History and Culture, having donated over $1million towards the project. He also helped in raising over $81 million for cancer research through the Stand Up to Cancer Foundation.
He Was A rapper
Many of you may recognize the name CHEIZAW, a rap group Kobe was a part of in high school. The group was signed by Sony entertainment. He released a single featuring supermodel Tyra Banks, but the song didn’t receive the expected reception.
He was later dropped by SONY music. However, he was featured in a couple of songs and even had singers release songs in his name. Lil Wayne was a fan and even named a song after him titled “Kobe Bryant” in 2009.
Writer And Author
By now, you would have known Kobe Bryant lived beyond the court; a husband, father, basketball player, philanthropist, he was also a writer. He published his book, The Mamba mentality: How I play in October of 2018. The book highlighted his career progress and reflections with photos.
He also co-authored a couple of other books, one of which was published posthumously in March 2020 titled The Wizenard Series: Season One, which topped the New York middle-grade hardcover list. The book elaborates on how an athlete must learn to control his emotions.
He Was A Devout Catholic
Kobe was a devout member of the catholic church. He would regularly attend mass with his family and even went to church the day of his demise. He even attended mid-week daily mass. He was raised as a catholic when he was a child growing up in Italy.
He said his faith helped him during the sexual assault lawsuit and when he was trying to restore peace within his family unit. He was a regular attendee at the Newport Beach Church and other county parishes close to his home in Orange County until his death.
Helicopter Rides Were Normal
Bryant had been a fan of helicopters even before the day of his death. He frequently took his helicopter to many of his home games. He believed this saved him time from sitting in traffic and truly enjoyed traveling in them.
He had once pranked Rob Pelinka with his helicopter. He also attributed the use of his helicopter to a healthy lifestyle he wanted to pursue. He stated this in an interview with GQ magazine in 2010. It helped him save more time to be with his family as well.
Kobe loved luxury and enjoyed splashing his money on his fair share of properties was not a new occurrence for a successful NBA player like he was. His three homes in Orange County were believed to have totaled around $18.8 million in 2012.
The “orange county register” had claimed that one of his homes was valued at $9.45 million when he purchased it. This house was situated in a guard-gated community with views of the sweeping coastline. IT came with a five-car garage and a pool. We would be making no mistake by saying Kobe lived well.
Cars To The Rescue
The early years of Kobe’s life were spent in Italy, which explains his love for Italian car brands such as Lamborghini and Ferrari. He once decided to treat himself to a Ferrari 458 Italia in 2012 when his salary was around $25 million.
According to TMZ, he paid the whole of the cost of $329,000 for the vehicle in one check. When the star wanted to splurge, he didn’t have to do it in payments. He could pay for everything he wanted upfront.
According to Forbes, at the time of his death, Kobe Bryant was worth $770 million. In 2016, he was labeled as the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports. He earned a total of $323 million from his NBA career and $350 million from endorsement deals!
Before his tragic accident, he had established many businesses and invested his money in successful companies, all while establishing impactful foundations. He was further successful in his business ventures, and his net worth was close to $800 million at the time of his death!
The End Of It All
On January 26, 2020, tragedy struck the world when his helicopter crashed. He was with his daughter and other family friends on the way to his Mamba sports academy in Thousand Oaks. He was planning on coaching a basketball game.
His thirteen-year-old daughter was by his side as well. Because the helicopter hit ominous, foggy weather, it went down and crashed in the hills of Calabasas, instantly bursting into flames. The crash happened around ten in the morning, and firefighters were on the scene almost immediately.
Congratulations To LeBron
Just before the tragedy, LeBron James made history by coming into third-place on the NBA-scoring list, a record which Kobe had held for years. Kobe noticed this and took to the social media app Twitter to congratulate James for surpassing his 33,643 points.
LeBron broke this record during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant had expressed joy and pure happiness for James, saying, “You should be happy for the person that comes after you to be able to surpass things that you’ve done….” he told USA Today.
She passed away at just thirteen years old, along with her father in the crash. Gianna “Gigi” Bryant was no doubt her father’s daughter. Sources claimed she was his little “mini-me” and looked up to him. Until death tragically struck, she dreamed of making the Women’s National Basketball League at the University of Connecticut.
Bryant himself told people Gigi didn’t hesitate to remind people that he didn’t need a son to carry on the family’s basketball legacy. Until her death, she was determined and had dreams to carry on a legacy like her star dad.
Undoubtedly, Bryant’s death shook the world and left people in shock. Both fellow celebrities and fans grieve him. Everyone who was inspired by him and looked up to him grieved for many passing weeks after he passed.
There were tears on every street and corner in LA. Restaurants closed on the night of his death to honor him. Flags were at half-staff, and fans placed basketballs on their front doors. Despite the final preparations for the Grammy Awards, people couldn’t help but honor him at the Staples Center.
Responses To The Tragedy
It was no news that the celebrity world had encountered a significant loss. Celebrities from Drake, Barack Obama, Taylor Swift, Kevin Hart, and many more took to social media to express their sadness. Basketball Legend Michael Jordan also acknowledged the sad passing of Bryant and Gigi.
Jordan released a statement that read, “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me.” Actor and singer Jennifer Lopez shared a picture of Kobe and his family. Other influential celebrities also expressed their heartbroken feeling at the time of his death.
The World Mourns
Many people have been paying tribute to Kobe Bryant via social media, which is not surprising. Many influential people expressed their love and gratitude for what Kobe did for the game of basketball and the sporting world. Longtime Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal was “sick” when he received the news.
“There are no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u, and u will be missed. My condolences go out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’M SICK RIGHT NOW.”
Kobe had a life beyond basketball and hoops. “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…” said former basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabaar.
He pointed out a couple of players he got along with, like Caron, Pau, D. Fish, and Ronnie Turiaf. That’s four guys in a twenty-year career. He said this Friendship helps him during training and practice and makes the season better.
Fans trooped into the Staples Center in their thousands on the 24th of February, 2020, to pay their last respects to Kobe, Gigi, and the other seven souls that were aboard the helicopter that crashed on the 26th of January, 2020.
That was the first time Vanessa made a public statement since the death of her husband and daughter the month before. Music stars like Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Alicia Keys performed at the ceremony. The Lakers donated all proceeds from the event to the Mamba and Mamacita Sports Foundation.