On Sunday, January 26, 2020 the 41-year old basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a brutal helicopter accident along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant and 7 other people. Those 7 lost were; Alyssa Altobelli (Gianna’s teammate), John Altobelli (Alyssa’s father and Orange Coast baseball coach), Keri Altobelli (Alyssa’s mother), Christina Mauser (Harbor day High school basketball coach), Ara Zobayan (Kobe’s private pilot), Sarah Chester and her mother Payton Chester. The helicopter crash occurred at Calabasas, California on its way to the Mamba Academy located in Thousand Oaks, California where his daughter would be playing in a basketball tournament. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
These fans and supporters were so touched by the Mamba’s legacy, that they took time out of their day to travel to The Staples Center where Kobe spent his whole career at, claiming they didn’t know where else to go. Calabasas was also one of the sites where many fans gathered to commemorate and grieve the loss of the Laker legend. To show their respects, people touched by Kobe’s legacy set up vigils around sites associated with him such as The Staples Center Plaza, the Lakers practice facility, and nearby murals in LA.
Black Mamba was a role model to many generations, young and old, including a large number of Don Lugo students. The day after his death, many students honored Kobe by wearing his jersey and Lakers merchandise. Students gathered to share their favorite memories that Kobe left them with, and grieve over the loss of an icon.
When JV basketball player, Cade Silva, was asked about Kobe’s impact on him, he emotionally shared that he started playing the game in 6th grade because of Kobe. When Cade’s dad told him the news sunday afternoon, he desperately hoped it was a joke– he couldn’t believe the Mamba had truly passed. When asked what he’d tell Kobe today if he had the chance, he said, with a voice full of emotion, “Thank you for all the memories you brought to me and the Laker’s fans around the world. I hope God treats you well in heaven.”
When JT Cortinas, a junior at Don Lugo, was asked what he’d say about Kobe Bryant, he simply said, “Hero’s come and go, but Legends are forever.” Which is a sentiment shared by people all around the world. To most, Kobe was more than a star on the court, he was a role-model, a father figure to those who needed one, and definitely someone who would go down in history as one of the most influential people we have seen.
Another student, Michael Mejia, went to The Staples Center Monday night to pay his respects like so many other Lakers fans. He expressed his gratefulness for the legacy the Mamba left behind and expressed his condolences over the early lose of Gianna Bryant, saying, “Thank you Kobe forever, and farewell to your angel Gianna. May you both rest in power.”
Kobe’s impact was evident, not only through the sentiments students shared out loud, but also through their actions. Monday morning, students sat together and shared their favorite plays, shared their favorite interviews, talked about that time they saw him play in person. Students shot rolled up pieces of paper in the trashcan and shouted “Kobe!” like they had done so many times before. They walked down the halls with Bryant plastered proudly on their backs. That day Lugo was a sea of purple and gold.