I didn’t know he could do this.
Judging by how his Lakers teammates reacted, they didn’t know either.
The historically great combination led the Lakers to a threepeat from 2000-2002. Their egos were too large for one team and, eventually, they broke up. But later in life, their bond – built through shared experiences – prevailed over distant grievances.
In the wake of Bryant’s tragic death, O’Neal shared his sorrow:
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
These photos span 17 years. Bryant and O’Neal went through so much together.
They were just settling into the next phase of their relationship – poking at each other while knowing an underlying affection existed. Disagreements had become more fun than biting.
It’s such a shame their ever-evolving relationship gets undercut so soon.
Kobe Bryant grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. Bryant styled his game after Jordan. Bryant even wanted to sign with Jordan’s Wizards. Though they never became teammates, Bryant still developed a brotherly relationship with Jordan.
In the wake of Bryant’s tragic death, Jordan shared a heartfelt message.
Michael Jordan on death of Kobe Bryant: “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me.” pic.twitter.com/r8JNMjfuRR
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 26, 2020
Bryant once said he wanted Jordan or Phil Jackson to present him at the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s unbelievably sad Bryant’s impending induction will come posthumously. But Jordan would be such a fitting speaker about his brother.
The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northwest of the Staples Center, where Kobe starred as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was both an owner and an active participant, and where he was reportedly headed to coach his daughter’s game.
The crash killed nine people, of which Kobe was one.
Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was aboard the helicopter with Kobe (they were on their way to one of her basketball games, along with a fellow teammate of Gianna’s and her parent).
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) January 26, 2020
His death sent waves of sadness and shock around the NBA and beyond.
Kobe had a 20-year NBA career that will send him to the Hall of Fame (once he becomes eligible). He was a five-time NBA Champion, a 15-time All-NBA player, NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Medalist for Team USA, and a player who influenced a generation who came up after him. His work ethic was legendary and was part of what rubbed off on LeBron and many others.
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.
Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.
Kobe became synonymous with the Lakers and their brand — the loyalty Kobe generated with his fans was unmatched in the modern NBA.
Kobe’s death came just a day after LeBron passed him for third All-Time in NBA scoring. LeBron talked about how he had grown up idolizing Kobe and the influence Kobe had on his life. Kobe’s last Tweet was about LeBron and, appropriately, the future of the game.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
From the AP story on his death:
Juan Bonilla of Calabasas said he was working on his roof Sunday morning when he heard a helicopter flying low nearby. He said he thought it was a sheriff’s helicopter on a training mission. He heard nothing amiss with the engine or rotors and said he did not see any mechanical issue with the chopper. It was foggy Sunday morning, but he said visibility didn’t seem to be low at the time of the crash.
Firefighters worked to douse flames that spread through about an acre (.40 hectares) of dry brush, said Art Marrujo, a dispatch supervisor with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the downed chopper was a Sikorsky S-76.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a “go team” of investigators to the site. The NTSB typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.
“They will look at man, machine and environment,” said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter-crash litigation.
“They will look at the pilot – was there any indication of fatigue, any indication of a training issue?They’ll scour his or her record,” Robb said. “They will look at this helicopter from stem to stern. They will take the engine to the NTSB metallurgical laboratory outside Washington, D.C., and examine it to see if there was something that malfunctioned in flight.”
Investigators will also consider what role might have been played by weather, terrain, radio towers or bird strikes, he said.
Robb said he has handled many cases involving Sikorsky S-76 crashes and regards the machine as having a good reputation.
“It is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record,” he said, “but parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen.”
Kobe Bryant touched so many lives.
That included the legions of fans who never met him, but who saw now only his Hall of Fame performances on the court but also the drive and work ethic it took for him to reach those heights. Kobe inspired them to strive and work for what they wanted in their own lives.
He also touched the lives of many around the NBA, and as news of his death in a helicopter crash in Southern California Sunday spread, the reactions of shock and love for the man poured in from around the league.
In Toronto, where the Spurs and Raptors were tipping off, both teams took a 24-second violation to start the game — 24 for No. 24.
Remarkable moment to start the Raptors-Spurs game. pic.twitter.com/thmt9ZU1Ra
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 26, 2020
Reactions poured in from every corner of the sports world.
Beyond devastated… my big brother… I can’t, I just can’t believe it
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) January 26, 2020
Jeannine & I are absolutely shocked to hear of the loss of one of my favorite people & one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game! Our hearts & prayers to Vanessa & his girls. @kobebryant you were my biggest fan, but I was yours #RIPMAMBA @NBA @espn @SLAMonline pic.twitter.com/Ll0BD6VWgr
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 26, 2020
Man I don’t even know where to start😭😭 I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 26, 2020
Speechless on this plane ride home! A sad day bruh! RIP Kobe Bean Bryant! Prayers go to his family and loved ones 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 This doesn’t even feel real man..
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 26, 2020
All the Lessons
All the Advice
Every word you ever told me…
Will stick with me forever
Thank You Kobe🙏🏽❤️ pic.twitter.com/WPCdHg3iyt
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 26, 2020
🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏 this is so sad! RIP💔💔💔 pic.twitter.com/5ykf0drVSG
— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) January 26, 2020
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 26, 2020
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) January 26, 2020
Damn. RIP Mamba. May your memory be a blessing
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 26, 2020
To all of my friends, thank you. Each of you have shared part of yourself with me and made my life better. I have tried to do the same. If you were here I would hug you like I just hugged my family. It hurts that it takes a tragedy to remind us of our mortality.#hugyourfriends
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 26, 2020
Nooooooo cmon someone say it ain’t true… I’m sick to my stomach right now
— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) January 26, 2020
On a personal note, I was fortunate to be a witness to some of Kobe Bryant’s biggest moments, from the 2010 NBA title through his injury and return, and his legendary final game.
However, that’s not how I will remember him.
The season he missed most of with a torn Achilles, he would sometimes come into the Laker locker room pregame (while it was open to the media) and just sit down, and sometimes talk — not on the record, if some unknowing reporter pulled out a digital recorder or a camera and it was over. The casual conversations were about nothing, or whatever was going on in the world, but a few times it turned to being a father of daughters — Kobe had four daughters, I am fortunate enough to have three, and numerous other reporters around the Lakers had multiple daughters (there must be something in the water at Staples Center). That’s the Kobe I remember, the one who cared and thought more deeply about his family than he did basketball — and we all know how he obsessed over the game. He was someone who loved his family with all his heart and, like dads everywhere, wasn’t always sure how to navigate through family life. As a group, the conversations would at times be about watching our daughters play sports and how we hoped that would help them grow to be confident, strong young women. He seemed able to inspire and pass along the confidence he had in himself to his daughters, and that was a tremendous gift to them.
Our thoughts are with your family and friends.