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January 27, 2020 | 12:54 pm UTC Update
Lamb was among the players visibly shaken by the news because he became a father to a baby girl just months ago. When Lamb read where both Bryant and one of his daughters had tragically passed away, he immediately thought of his own. “It hit me harder just seeing how much she loved him and how much their relationship had grown since he retired and he was spending a lot of time with her and putting his all into being a father,” he said. “Just like he did the game. He put his all into the game and his craft. You see a whole bunch of videos on Instagram of how he’s helping players now. He put his all into everything.
Me, I’ll remember his humanity. (And I know, that part of Kobe’s story is as complicated as the rest of him.) NBA stars live their lives in a swirling fishbowl, their every triumph and misstep filmed, framed and cataloged. For a Lakers star, that goes 100-fold. Fame warps everything. I saw Kobe struggle with it all at times. Saw him alienate teammates, push away relatives, turn surly and insulated. That was the Kobe Bryant who emerged in the mid-2000s—jaws clenched, chin out, domineering, merciless, the Mamba.
January 27, 2020 | 10:19 am UTC Update
Eyal Smener was on the phone in his living room when he heard a loud whirring sound. He thought it might be a helicopter flying much lower than usual up in the hills behind his home in Calabasas, but he did not hang up the phone to investigate. The noise he heard next is one he will not soon forget. “It was this weird, loud grinding sound,” he said. “And then nothing. Just nothing.” He didn’t think much about it until his wife told him an hour later there had been a terrible helicopter crash involving Kobe Bryant. Then he knew he had heard the final seconds of Bryant and the other souls lost aboard a helicopter that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters had claimed the lives of nine people on Sunday morning.

Danny Green: This is so crazy, We just seen you! Been sitting here thinking of what to say…and there are absolutely no words that can truly describe what you meant to me, my friends and family, and the basketball world/culture that we live in today. We’ve had many so many battles on the court and so many brief interactions off the court but extremely meaningful to me and I’ll never forget them. You were an icon and an idol to us all! You were a God! and your legacy will forever live on. This season will be dedicated to you and the others we’ve lost today. prayers and condolences go out to the Bryant family and the other families that were on board.
That, more or less, was the extent of the conversation. For a reporter, Bryant could be either a great jousting partner or an intimidating foe. Tee him up on the right topic — in a variety of languages — and there was no better interview in the NBA. But he did not suffer fools. He would bat down questions as lazy or ill-considered, even if it was just a thin veneer as he diverted from a topic he wanted to avoid. I last saw him employ the tactic 11 days before he died while announcing a partnership between Major League Soccer and BodyArmor, the sports drink company in which he was an early investor. A reporter asked him whether he supported LAFC or the L.A. Galaxy. “Ask a better question,” he said.
In our short conversations that day, we talked about Gianna and her love of basketball. We joked about how much more hectic our lives had gotten with the addition of more kids. His youngest daughter, Capri, was born last June, one month after my second son. When I chastised him for not coming around Lakers games more often, he said, “I’ve been busy chasing these four kids around.”
Storyline: Gianna Bryant Death
When I was 17 years old, I had the opportunity to interview Bryant in Orlando during an After-School All-Stars charity event (after emailing his publicist more times than I’m proud to admit). He accepted a key to the city of Orlando and spoke with hundreds of children about the importance of academic success and chasing their dreams. I’d only ever seen Bryant on television, so the thought of meeting him and talking to him one-on-one was incredibly nerve-wracking. However, when Bryant arrived, he was extraordinarily friendly and gracious. He gave thoughtful answers and was so kind, even though I was just a teenager and there were a million more important things he could’ve done with his time. Whoever said “never meet your heroes” clearly wasn’t talking about Kobe. It was sweet watching this on-court assassin interact with young children too. They went nuts when he emerged from the Amway Arena tunnel and after joking with them for a bit, he spoke about the importance of education and chasing your dreams. The kids were captivated, hanging on his every word. After the event, he told me that he felt blessed to be in a position where he could have such a significant impact on the youth.
During Kobe’s playing days, I loved to ask rookies about their first match-up against Bryant. They often talked about how intimidating he was, and how he was just as unstoppable as they’d imagined. For many players, sharing the court with Kobe was their welcome-to-the-NBA moment and something they’ll never forget. Many players would talk about how he could beat you in so many different ways. “His counter-moves have counter-moves,” Courtney Lee once told me. That’s because he spent countless hours in the gym, perfecting his craft. Kobe’s insane work ethic, tenacity and desire to be great are a huge part of his legacy.
January 27, 2020 | 6:53 am UTC Update
Nine people died in the helicopter crash on Sunday that claimed the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Though the Bryants lead the headlines due to their fame, we want to make sure we also recognize the other victims who died. In addition to Kobe and Gianna, junior college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa died in the crash. We have since learned that another victim was Christina Mauser, who was a girls’ basketball coach. Mauser’s husband Matt shared the sad news of Christina’s death on Facebook Sunday.
Saturday was the final time Young spoke to Kobe and Gianna. A source told The Athletic prior to the Hawks’ game against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night that Kobe and Gianna FaceTimed with Young on Saturday to congratulate him for being named a starter in the All-Star Game. Young didn’t want to divulge all of the details of their conversation but did confirm that he spoke with the father-daughter duo the day before they tragically died, alongside seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“One of the last conversations we had, man, he was just telling me how he’s seen my game progress,” Young said before he paused for eight seconds as he choked up. “He was just happy for me. He was saying how proud he was of me and how he wants to continue seeing me be a role model for kids growing up and just for Gigi and all of the kids looking up to me and continue to inspire these kids and continue to play my heart out. That was one of the last things he said to me.”
Gianna told Young how much she loved watching him play and how big of a fan she was of the Hawks’ point guard. Young told her he made it a point to watch her highlights on YouTube and Twitter. She admired Young so much that she wanted to train how he trains. It didn’t matter that her father was one of the best basketball players of all time; she wanted to be like Young. So, Gianna started training with Alex Bazzell, Young’s trainer during the offseason, in addition to her lessons from dad. Young went to one of Bryant’s camps while he was in high school. But Young’s relationship with Kobe only started blossoming in the past two years as Gianna started idolizing Young.
Storyline: Gianna Bryant Death
January 27, 2020 | 6:27 am UTC Update
Gordon also spent time with Bryant. In late August, Gordon was among a group of rising young players and superstars whom Bryant invited to a two-day minicamp. “This past summer, it really felt like he was starting to develop a mentorship with me,” Gordon said. “It was a beautiful thing just to get to experience some of the things that he was teaching us about the game of basketball and about the game of life. He’s a very unique individual, a very fierce competitor.”
Derek Jeter: ll I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family. Put aside one of the all-time great basketball careers for a second. Put aside his famous work ethic, the Mamba mentality, that incredible will to win. I’ll let everyone else tackle that. But when I think of Kobe, I really just end up thinking about those special few personal conversations that we were lucky enough to share together, each time one of us had a new baby daughter. I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands. And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important.
As Gigi grew into a young teenager, her love for basketball transcended watching her dad. She began playing competitive ball year-round, with her father helping to coach her team. During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel’s television show recently, Kobe said of Gigi that she “for sure” wanted to play in the WNBA someday. “The best thing that happens is when we go out and she’ll be standing next to me and fans will come up to me like ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy, you and (Vanessa) gotta have a boy — somebody to carry on the legacy and the tradition’ and (Gigi) will be like ‘Oy, I got this. We don’t need a boy for that. I got this!’”
Storyline: Gianna Bryant Death
January 27, 2020 | 5:40 am UTC Update
John Altobelli, 56, who guided the Pirates to four California community college state championships and racked up more than 700 victories in 27 seasons at Orange Coast, was among the nine victims in the helicopter crash that killed former Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Tony Altobelli, John’s younger brother and the school’s sports information director, confirmed that John Altobelli’s wife, Keri , and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the Newport Beach-based club basketball team with Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, were also killed in the crash.
When I heard the news, I thought immediately of Michael Jordan, who Bryant told me on several occasions was the player he aspired to be. Certainly, Bryant came closer than anyone else to matching the talent, the intensity — and the aura — of His Airness. I reached out to Jordan via text, knowing the news would be overwhelming and deeply personal. “I’m devastated!!!!” Jordan wrote me. “Too emotional to respond. I can’t find the words to make sentences!!!!
Kyle Kuzma: Damn I’ve been messed up all day…….I grew up trying to be like you. I would watch YouTube highlights as a kid trying to mimic you (and I still do) I would go to the gym as a kid and shoot fade-aways for hours acting as if every shot I took was at the buzzer just like you. Then 3 years ago I became a laker. You became family & a mentor to me. As a young kid I would of done anything in the world to meet you and as a rookie I had my opportunity. A dinner. A dinner with my idol Kobe Bryant. Talking about basketball, life and business with you at that moment changed my life forever man. I’m teared up just trying to write this but Kobe thank you for being a brother to me. Anything I ever needed from you, was just a call away. Thank you for all the knowledge. Thank you for just being a friend. Your inner drive is something that will never be match. Heroes come and go but you my guy will truly last forever. OUT.

Bradley Beal: Really don’t know how to feel! Speechless, numb, hurt, etc. no words can mount to the pain! But your passion, dedication, (MAMBA) mentality, love and knowledge both on and off the floor were exemplar! For that, I smile knowing you left an unbelievable mark on this game and in my life! Thank you for paving the way. PEACE and BLESSINGS to the families involved and affected by this tragedy. God be with us ALL! #blackmamba #8 #24 #GOAT