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On January 26, legendary Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash. Bryant retired from the NBA after the 2015-2016 season at the age of 37 after playing for 20 seasons and setting numerous records. His death at the age of 41 shocked almost everyone who heard the news, and sportscasters, fellow basketball players, and other cultural commentators are still processing Bryant’s unexpected death. Here’s everything known so far.
The cause of the helicopter crash is being investigated
Though it is not yet clear why the Bryants’ helicopter crashed, an investigation is underway. In pilot Ara Zobayan’s final transmission, he told air traffic control that he was ascending to avoid a cloud layer, a standard piloting move on a foggy day. Radar data shows that the helicopter reached an altitude of 2,300 feet before it began descending and turning left. It remains unclear what happened between this descent and the helicopter’s impact with a Calabasas hillside, but investigators have said that the impact of the crash was immense.
The Bryants were two of nine fatalities
Much of the coverage following the Calabasas helicopter crash has focused on the loss of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, but the incident claimed seven other lives. Among the other fatalities were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Kerri Altobelli, and his daughter Alyssa Altobelli. John Atlobelli coached at Orange Coast College for 27 years, and Alyssa Altobelli and Gianna Bryant played sports together at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, which derives its title from one of Kobe Bryant’s most prominent nicknames.
Vanessa Bryant has yet to publicly comment
In much of the reporting on Kobe Bryant’s death, his 37-year-old wife Vanessa and three children – Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and Capri, 7 months – have been mentioned. The helicopter crash killed not just Vanessa’s husband, but one of her children, and her children have lost a father and a sister. Vanessa has yet to publicly comment on her devastating losses, but sources close to her say that she has a good support system around her and is doing all she can to stay strong for her daughters. Reports have also emerged that Vanessa and Kobe swore a pact to never fly in a helicopter together.
Bryant’s friends and followers have publicly mourned
In Bryant’s time with the Lakers, he became known for not just being a great basketball player, but for being close friends with the Lakers’ other modern-day icon, Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal (though the two had publicly feuded in the past). Shaq’s brief tribute to Bryant the day of the helicopter crash is among the most favorited tweets of 2020 so far, and other legendary basketball figures including Magic Johnson and current basketball leaders such as Joel Embiid shared tributes as well. Cultural figures outside basketball have also mourned Bryant’s loss, and Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men opened the 62nd annual Grammys – which took place the night of Bryant’s death at the Lakers’ home venue, The Staples Center – with a musical tribute.
Bryant’s sexual assault confession has also been remembered
Bryant undeniably changed the course of basketball history and inspired many of today’s best players to take up the sport. Some pieces in the wake of his death have argued that people can honor Bryant for his immensely positive impact on the world while also remembering that he admitted to sexual assault in 2003. As people look back upon Bryan’s legacy, they may also reckon with darker parts of his past, opening new conversations in the ever-growing #MeToo movement.
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