A KOBE BRYANT TRIBUTE: TWO YEARS LATER
January 26th 2020 began as most days do. But, by the time it ended, it would be one of the saddest for the basketball community. There was a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California in the late hours of the morning, and there would not be any survivors. Among the eight people aboard were John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan, Gianna and Kobe Bryant.
Kobe had been in Philadelphia the prior evening, watching LeBron James pass him on the NBA's all-time scoring list. And less than 24 hours later, he and his basketball-obsessed daughter, along with seven other folks, had perished.
In the aftermath of Kobe's passing, 10 NBA players changed their number from 8 (and 24) to a different one, while then-Jazz forward Miye Oni switched from 24 to 81, Bryant's single-game career-high. In addition to this, various star players around the league wore either #8 or #24 for their first games after his passing.
The impact Bryant had on basketball cannot be measured. During his playing days, he was one of the toughest to guard, and to stop. He won five rings with the Lakers. And in his retired years, he could be seen mentoring the young stars of today's game and heavily promoting the WNBA.
Passing away at such a young age, we were robbed of seeing so many more years of Kobe. Him continuing to help the young stars. Growing the popularity of women's basketball in America. And just being a tremendous ambassador for the game. Most importantly though, we saw a family lose their hero.
Kobe's daughter Gianna was an incredible young basketball player, who seemed to have a very bright future in the game. Her favorite team, UConn, kept an open seat on the bench for their first game after the tragic passing, with a #2 (her number on the court) jersey and a bouquet of roses.
We will never forget Kobe Bryant and his impact on the game of basketball. His daughter and the great things she will never get to do. The games John Altobelli won't get to coach, and the loss of a family. The Chesters. Ara Zobayan, who can never fly another helicopter. And Christina Mauser, an incredible basketball mind.
One last time, Kobe Bryant, we thank you. I thank you. A joy to watch on the court, and forever a basketball icon. The number of polarizing players like you have been few and far between. Thank you for an incredible career.
Two years later. We haven't forgotten.