Kobe Bryant left deep legacy in L.A. sports, bas­ket­ball world,

Kobe Bryant, daugh­ter die in he­li­copter crash

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By GREG BEACHAM

LOS AN­GE­LES — Kobe Bryant in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of bas­ket­ball play­ers world­wide with both his sub­lime skills and his un­quench­able com­pet­i­tive fire.

He also earned Los An­ge­les’ eter­nal ado­ra­tion dur­ing his two decades as the fierce soul of the city’s beloved Lak­ers.

Less than four years into his re­tire­ment from the NBA, Bryant was seek­ing new chal­lenges and work­ing to in­spire his daugh­ters’ gen­er­a­tion through sports and sto­ry­telling when his next act ended shock­ingly early.

Bryant, the 18-time All-Star who won five cham­pi­onships and be­came one of the great­est bas­ket­ball play­ers of his gen­er­a­tion dur­ing a 20year ca­reer with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, died in a he­li­copter crash Sun­day. He was 41.

The crash oc­curred in the foggy hills above Cal­abasas, Cal­i­for­nia, about 30 miles north­west of down­town Los An­ge­les, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion told The As­so­ci­ated Press. A dif­fer­ent per­son fa­mil­iar with the case con­firmed Bryant’s 13-year-old daugh­ter Gianna also was killed.

Both of the AP’s un­named sources spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause few de­tails of the crash had been re­leased pub­licly.

Au­thor­i­ties said nine peo­ple were on the he­li­copter, and all were pre­sumed dead. No names were re­leased.

Bryant lived south of Los An­ge­les in coastal Or­ange County for much of his adult life, and he of­ten used he­li­copters to save time and avoid South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s no­to­ri­ous traf­fic. He of­ten trav­eled to prac­tices and games by he­li­copter be­fore his play­ing ca­reer ended in 2016, and he kept up the prac­tice af­ter re­tire­ment as he at­tended to his many new ven­tures, which in­cluded a bur­geon­ing en­ter­tain­ment com­pany that re­cently pro­duced an Acad­emy Award-win­ning an­i­mated short film.

The crash oc­curred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Acad­emy, Bryant’s bas­ket­ball train­ing com­plex in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia. A girls bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment was sched­uled for Sun­day at the fa­cil­ity.

Bryant, who had four daugh­ters with his wife, Vanessa, ded­i­cated him­self to boost­ing women’s sports in re­cent years, coach­ing and men­tor­ing bas­ket­ball play­ers around the world. Gianna, bet­ter known as Gigi, had a promis­ing youth ca­reer.

Bryant sat with her court­side at a Brook­lyn Nets game late last year, clearly pass­ing along his wis­dom to his daugh­ter.

Bryant told Jimmy Kim­mel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and re­called

how fans would of­ten ap­proach him say­ing “you gotta have a boy, you gotta some­one to carry on the tra­di­tion, the legacy.”

Gianna took ex­cep­tion: “She’s like, ‘Oy, I got this,’” Bryant re­called.

Bryant re­tired nearly four years ago as the third-lead­ing scorer in NBA his­tory, fin­ish­ing two decades in Lak­ers pur­ple and gold as a pro­lific shooter with a sub­lime al­laround game and a re­lent­less com­pet­i­tive ethic that in­spired strong re­ac­tions from fans and op­po­nents alike. He held that No. 3 spot in the league scor­ing ranks un­til Satur­day night, when the Lak­ers’ LeBron James passed him dur­ing a game in Philadel­phia, Bryant’s home­town.

“Con­tin­u­ing to move the game for­ward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much re­spect my brother.”

On Satur­day night, James said he was “happy just to be in any con­ver­sa­tion with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time great­est bas­ket­ball player to ever play. One of the all-time great­est Lak­ers.”

News of Bryant’s death in­spired an out­pour­ing of grief around the sports world and be­yond, but it was felt par­tic­u­larly painfully in Los An­ge­les, where Bryant was un­ques­tion­ably the sprawl­ing city’s most pop­u­lar ath­lete and one of its most beloved pub­lic fig­ures.

The Lak­ers’ next game isn’t un­til Tues­day night against the crosstown ri­val Clip­pers, but hun­dreds of fans — many in Bryant jer­seys and Lak­ers gear — spon­ta­neously gath­ered at Sta­ples Cen­ter and in the sur­round­ing LA Live en­ter­tain­ment com­plex on Sun­day, weep­ing and star­ing at video boards with Bryant’s im­age be­fore the Grammy awards cer­e­mony.

“I thought he was go­ing to live for­ever,” Lak­ers great Magic John­son told KCBS-TV. “I thought he was in­vin­ci­ble. ... There was no­body who took more pride in putting on that Laker uni­form than Kobe. No­body. He was just spe­cial. We will miss him and we’ll re­mem­ber him for his great­ness, but let’s not for­get how he im­pacted the world, too.”

The NBA kept its games on as sched­uled when the news broke, but the San An­to­nio Spurs and Toronto Rap­tors both took vol­un­tary 24-sec­ond shot clock vi­o­la­tions at the start of their game in honor of Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the sec­ond half of his ca­reer.

Sev­eral other teams fol­lowed up by de­lib­er­ately tak­ing de­lays of 24 and 8 sec­onds, hon­or­ing both of his jer­sey num­bers. Many play­ers were seen cry­ing be­fore their games, and James looked emo­tional on the tar­mac when he got off the Lak­ers’ team plane from Philadel­phia.

Bryant’s fu­ture ap­peared to be lim­it­less in re­tire­ment, whether in sports or en­ter­tain­ment. He opened a pro­duc­tion com­pany shortly af­ter leav­ing the Lak­ers, say­ing he was just as pas­sion­ate about sto­ry­telling as he had been about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his con­tri­bu­tions to “Dear Bas­ket­ball,” an an­i­mated short about his re­la­tion­ship to the game. He also pro­duced con­tent for ESPN.

In 2003, Bryant was charged with at­tack­ing a 19-year-old em­ployee at a

Colorado re­sort. He had said the two had con­sen­sual sex, and the charge was even­tu­ally dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was set­tled out of court. Bryant’s adu­la­tion re­mained strong in Los An­ge­les even dur­ing the sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

Bryant be­came one of the game’s most pop­u­lar play­ers as the face of the 16-time NBA cham­pion Lak­ers fran­chise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scor­ing cham­pion, but he also earned 12 se­lec­tions to the NBA’s All-De­fen­sive teams.

He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a com­bustible part­ner­ship to lead the Lak­ers to NBA ti­tles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Ga­sol to win two more ti­tles in 2009 and 2010.

A two-time Olympic gold medal­ist with the dom­i­nant U.S. team, Bryant re­tired in 2016 af­ter scor­ing 60 points in his fi­nal NBA game. In De­cem­ber 2017, the Lak­ers hung ban­ners re­tir­ing his No. 8 and No. 24 jer­seys in the Sta­ples Cen­ter rafters in an un­prece­dented dou­ble honor.

Bryant looms large over the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of NBA play­ers, most of whom grew up ei­ther idol­iz­ing Bryant or ab­sorb­ing his work ethic and com­pet­i­tive spirit in the same way Bryant’s gen­er­a­tion learned from Michael Jor­dan. Af­ter James passed Bryant on Satur­day, he re­mem­bered lis­ten­ing in awe to Bryant when the su­per­star came to speak at a child­hood bas­ket­ball camp.

“I re­mem­ber one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” James said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

FATHER AND DAUGH­TER In this July 26, 2018, file photo for­mer Laker Kobe Bryant and his daugh­ter Gianna watch dur­ing the U.S. na­tional cham­pi­onships swim­ming meet in Irvine. Bryant, the 18-time NBA Al­lS­tar who won five cham­pi­onships and be­came one of the great­est bas­ket­ball play­ers of his gen­er­a­tion dur­ing a 20-year ca­reer with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, died in a he­li­copter crash Sun­day. Gianna also died in the crash.

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