Kobe Bryant Dead: Details of Crash that Claimed Nine Lives and The Mamba’s Legacy as a Sports Hero, L.A. Icon and Beyond

Jae C. Hong/ AP Photo

Over 48 hours ago, Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of eight others including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant.

The NBA postponed Tuesday’s Clippers-Lakers matchup out of respect to the franchise that Bryant played 20 seasons for. Bryant, 41, won five NBA Titles in seven appearances along with 18 All-Star appearances as a Lakers. This still doesn’t feel real for many fans and athletes across the world. It’s really unprecedented for Lakers and sports fans, even Angelinos.

Many people lost their idol, icon and favorite player that Sunday. However, it felt so much deeper because Bryant gave us so many great memories. That is also why it is so hard to process what the Victims’ families fell after this tragedy.

Kobe is survived by three daughters, two sisters and a wife, Vanessa Bryant. Kobe left us fans with the Mamba Mentality work ethic along with a growing legacy as a father and business man after basketball.

L.A. Devastated by Helicopter Crash that Kills Nine including Kobe Bryant and Daughter

News broke Sunday Jan. 26 in the A.M. that Bryant and others on board the Sikorsky S-76B were involved in a crash outside of Calabasas.

The vessel left John Wayne Airport just after 9 A.M. It made a U-turn in the Calabasas area, climbed and then made a steep descent. Everybody on board died.

Players, fans, athletes, musicians, actors, politicians and business people across the globe reacted via social media since the news broke.

No words can encompass everything this man meant to Los Angeles or Sports. We the national media moves on, Greater Los Angeles and Sports fans will still feel the loss.

Hundreds of fans lined up outside Staples Center after news broke Sunday evening, despite the Grammy’s presence that night. Singer Alicia Keys acknowledged Staples as the place Kobe built during the Grammy tribute she led.

Others gathered around his facilities and anywhere else his greatness braced. They flocked to the crash site as well as the gymnasium named after Bryant at his high school in Philadelphia. All to grieve and feel his presence one last time.

Remembering the Other Victims

They weren’t just other victims who died alongside Kobe and Gianna in that helicopter crash in the foggy hills Sunday.

Orange Coast College coach John Altobelli, 56, died in the crash as well. Altobelli coached for the program for 27 years and last year he was ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year.

His wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were also killed in the crash. Alyssa was Gianna’s teammate and friend. The Altobellis are survived by a son and daughter.

Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter, were among the families in that fatal crash.

Christina Mauser, basketball coach at Harbor Day School and the Mamba Academy, died in the crash too. Christina is survived by a husband and three young children. Her husband and 11-year-old daughter took some comfort in the all the people hurting with them.

The pilot of the craft, Ara Zobayan, carried over 20 years flying experience. He was a commercial helicopter pilot and certified flight instructor who flew Bryant and other celebrities around regularly. He was up to date with FAA-required annual medical exams.

Remains gathered via ATV and drones from the rugged hillside, spanning an area of 500 to 600 feet, by Tuesday. The sophisticated helicopter could fly as many as 12 but some suspect weather contributed to the crash as the plane hit a hill at 1,085 feet.

Investigations into the crash are on-going as the federal transportation safety investigators will look at the pilot’s history, the chopper’s maintenance records and the records of its owner and operator. The Helicopter was not required to carry a “black box” recording but did hold an iPad with some data.

The National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a rough summary of what investigators have learned within a preliminary report in about 10 days. However, A ruling on the cause can take a year or more, per the ABC 7 article.

Devastation Across Sports

NFL players in the Pro Bowl like DaVante Adams paid tribute to No. 24. ESPN broadcasters were noticeably shaken as the news broke during the telecast. The NFC team did a fadeaway jumper for the Mamba after a sack too. Super Bowl media day opened with a tribute for The Mamba as well as many players speaking on his impact at media day. Kobe Bryant really got tributes across sports.

Cities across the Country, USA Basketball, Nike, former President Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and many more celebrities were impacted by the tragedy.

NBA players like Trae Young wore No. 8 last night for the Bryants. Young finished with 45 points on 24 shot attempts

The Dallas Mavericks retired the No. 24 as a homage to Kobe. Dwayne Wade broke down.

LeBron James appeared heartbroken as he got off the plane. James passed him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with his 33,645th point the night before the tragedy in Philadelphia, where Kobe was born.

L.A. Natives Tyson Chandler, DeMarr Derozan and more tried to keep it together for their team’s contests on a tragic day.


After the game, Derozan called Kobe his idol and said he would not be here without him.

Other teams started games by letting the 24-second shot clock expire in honor of the player that inspired them to relentlessly pursue greatness. 

“Superman isn’t supposed to die,” Knicks forward Marcus Morris said after his team’s somber win over the Nets that Sunday. “And to us, he felt like Superman.” 

Kobe’s NBA Legacy

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and other NBA greats expressed their condolences for the Mamba in statements too.

Bryant was supposed to outlive them. Bryant was supposed to surpass them off the court as a father and businessman like some will argue he did on the hardwood. 

Kobe already took mentoring and investing seriously. Bryant recently discussed his ventures and looking forward to writing books that he described as a cross between Harry Potter and the Olympics. He was a notable investor in Body Armour. 

Bryant also took to mentoring players like Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis’s deactivated social media yesterday. Kyrie walked out of a rivalry game versus the Knicks as soon as he heard the news.

Now, players increasingly do not even want to touch either of his numbers.


However, Bryant wasn’t just an NBA great or a businessman. He was a Lakers great gone too soon.

The Best Lakers Player Ever

What other great Lakers legend has passed? None as polarizing in Purple and Gold as Kobe, for sure. Even Magic Johnson admitted that.

Bryant grew up a Lakers playing for them at 17. Los Angeles saw the rap album and the celebrity he took to prom in his early days.

They rode with him though the Colorado Case. They watched as he went from small-fro No. 8 to the vicious No. 24.

It’s an unprecedented feeling that strikes the Lake Show fans’ hearts because they watched Kobe wear only their uniform for twenty seasons.

Bryant is not only the GOAT among Lakers GOATs. He is an intricate part of Los Angeles after bringing five titles to Staples Center, an arena that opened as Shaq and Kobe made their dynamic three-peat. Those teams in that arena gave people a reason to go to DTLA. 

Kobe the L.A. Legend

Bryant wasn’t born in Los Angeles and his childhood was mostly spent abroad. However, he spent most of his life in Los Angeles. Built a family in Los Angeles and forever changed L.A. culture.

A previously underdeveloped part of Los Angeles became an entertainment destination. L.A. Live was a parking lot during the Staples Center early days but it is now home to restaurants, clubs and more party because Bryant continued delivering greatness on the court.

Bryant won two more titles sans Shaq and made players like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom. Metta World-Peace and Andrew Bynum immortal in Los Angeles.

Kobe and the Lakers were guests in our living room every Christmas. Aprils without him when he and the Lakers missed the playoffs felt wrong, even for Clippers fans like myself. 

Thus, fans from teams all over took to Staples Center to mourn the loss of Bryant.

The Ultimate Competitor

“He was such a great opponent. It’s what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have,”Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after hearing the news last night.

Rivers led the Boston team that foiled Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 2008. Doc was also on the losing end versus Kobe for a title in 2010.

Kawhi Leonard, another disciple of Bryant, talked about making it his duty to play.

Leonard, a native of Southern Calif. idolized Kobe like many of us did and he was fortunate to know him.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if you were a Lakers fan or hater, you were a Kobe fan.

A Generation of Kobe Fans

Living in Los Angeles meant admiring his greatness. It wasn’t enough for him to be naturally talented at his craft, he needed to tirelessly dominate with his work ethic too.  

If you were anywhere near the TV for the twenty seasons he hooped at the highest level You remembered the scowl and the fist pumps. You saw that time he made the free throws after he tore his Achilles in 2013.

Nobody was going to tell you LeBron or Jordan was better than Kobe. Even Phil Jackson who coached both of them called Kobe a chosen one.

You didn’t need to be a Lakers fan to say “Kobe,” each time you closed a deal or just shot some trash into a dispenser. 

Us in SoCal heard about the 4 AM workouts at UCI or UCLA and legends about how many shots he took each day. We remember the countless times he called out teammates. Smush Parker, Pau Gasol, the Media and so many more faced the Mamba’s wrath. 

Yet, we weren’t the only ones drawn to Kobe Bryant. His impact and loss was felt globally from NYC to the Philippines.

Bryant Beyond Hoops

Kobe transcended basketball long before he stopped playing. Dude won an Oscar shortly after retirement for his short film “Dear Basketball.”

He entertained the entertainers. Many admired his creativity along with his worth ethic. That’s one of the few reasons why Snoop Dogg, Leonardo DiCaprio and countless others from the entertainment world expressed their grief and condolences for Kobe.

Bryant didn’t even let L.A. traffic stop him. He infamously flew a helicopter across the Southern California region living in Orange County and Ventura County, unrealistic drives from Downtown in traffic. There was also that time he pulled someone out of a car accident late last year.

Again, why this felt like a JFK-ish moment for the entire Southern California region. 

Kobe and GiGi

You thought having a daughter would stop him from passing on his legacy?

No, Kobe said Gianna say she got it when someone said he needed a son to carry his on-court legacy.

Bryant truly believed she would be among the greatest WNBA players ever. Kobe did a lot for WNBA too. Bryant’s reliance on fundamentals gave the WNBA some one to model. He was a willing mentor and admirer too.

Only a few weeks, ago he talked about how women could keep up in the NBA. He mentored and watched that league as much as the NBA.

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Still processing so my thoughts may be fragmented: I’m not one to react socially out of respect for the families, so I hope doing so just this once isn’t disrespectful. – I can’t lie, I thought I’d finish my career with few legends, if any, knowing who I am. Before this year, I’d only run into him in the tunnels of Staples Center 2 years ago: it was very awkward. Heading to his seat, he was there to watch us play as I prepared to hit the court. Not fully registering the moment, I stopped, hesitant, and gave a half bow before scurrying to the locker room. I remember thinking, “Really Nek?! That was your ONE chance.” From that point, my only real memory was of him half laughing down the hall at this awkward young woman that clearly reacted in a way most do when they happen upon a legend. It felt unreal. – Fast forward to this summer at WNBA All-Star (pictured above), we had the pleasure of playing in front of him & his young queen (the sliver of a jean jacket here). He knew every player, she knew every player, INCLUDING ME. They knew MY name. I was stunned. They even pronounced my name correctly. It was a proud moment for me. My family & friends even mentioned they’d both shared a reaction to a jump shot I’d made; so unreal. – We (the LA Sparks) also had a dope moment at the US Women’s Soccer Team Victory Tour this summer when he invited us to his box with his daughters. He told us amazing stories about him & Fish back in the day. He had us in there ROLLIN; we could’ve stayed forever sharing our love for the game. It was all we talked about on the ride home: how UNREAL that moment was. – So much about him & her were UNREAL: a legend grooming his legacy in another young legend, his impact in sports & the world, her impact on women’s basketball, his love & support for her that permeated the space of women in sports, her genuine love for the game & for him. There’s a revolution and he saw it coming. He knew what his young queen would do & he knew where our game is going. She knew what she had to offer the world & the game. From the beginning, he was there for her AND for us. His legendary vision and impact were always so unreal, and they always will be. ❤️

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Nneka Ogwumike talked about how he and Gianna went to her game and she was star struck but they were too.

Candace Parker and many others talked about him as a mentor. 

I think Kobe truly believed in the power of sports because of what he saw in his daughters and wife. He saw that they could embody the Mamba mentality and so much more. 

The Mambacita, Gigi’s nickname, was honored by the UCONN Women’s Basketball team. A team she wanted to play for when she got to college.

Kobe Bean The Man

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Merry Christmas 🙏🏾🎄🎁

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

Bryant also saw his Wife Vanessa stand beside him through his sexual assault case in 2003. He grew into a great Lakers from a 17-year-old high schooler but we saw how he was adapting the Mamba mentality to fatherhood. 

He wasn’t perfect. His relationships with his parents were far from perfect. He had sisters. Yet he felt like family to many around basketball and Southern Calif. because he influenced the culture. 

The kicker in all of this, is Kobe died doing what he loved most. Being a father, going to coach his daughter in a game. Paying the game forward and expanding the culture through his Mambacita and adorable teen sidekick, GiGi.

Doing what seemed like another trip across Southern California, with L.A. traffic at his feet. In fact, the whole reason Kobe started taking helicopters was because he wanted to pick his kids up from school and attend all their extra curricular activities without traffic delays.

He even made his wife promise they never fly on the helicopter together.


We didn’t only lose a Lakers legend, an L.A. icon or NBA great. We lost a father of four who transcended entertainment, sports and business in Southern California, along with eight others. 

Remembering the Mamba Moving Forward

It still doesn’t feel real because none of us want to accept we lost two Bryants, tragically, who still had a lot to give the world and Los Angeles communities. 

But nothing will change what we lost. The past and all the best that was yet to come. Kobe is gone, gone.

All we can do is remember him, Remember the buzzer beaters and the time he captured everyone’s heart shooting those free throws after a torn Achilles’ in 2013, while willing those Lakers into the playing. We remember the Championships, the All-Star games, the side kicks and all the Christmases we gathered around to watch his greatness.

Remember GiGi and the eight others as all of us who carry that mamba mentality into whatever it is we do. That’s what we do today, in this moment, but soon we get back to doing what we do and living life the Mamba way.

Kobe on the Mamba Mentality:

“You’re not worried about what people may say. You’re not worried about disappointing others. You’re not worried about any of that, you’re just focused on being in the moment. That’s what Mamba mentality truly is.”

via SB Nation

Today, this week, we cry it out. Tomorrow we get back to Mamba-ing. That’s what Kobe would want us to do whether we are a NBA Player, SoCal resident, Lakers fan or distant admirer.

Stay great, stay focused, stay in the moment and stay Mamba-ing. Legends never really die so Mamba will never really be out.

Los Angeles plays Portland in the Staples Center Friday.

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Pete D. Camarillo is currently a credentialed Lakers writer for SportsOutWest and co-host of the weekly Touchdowns and Tangents podcast. Pete enjoys creating content about music, life and West Coast Sports, specifically the NBA and NFL. He has published more than 1,000 articles across various publications including ClutchPoints, FullPressCoverage, TheSportsDaily, Fansided and Inquistr. Pete is also currently a full-time media relations professional for Business Wire and he is active in ONA, SPJ, NABJ and AAJA organizations in Los Angeles. The 2015 CSUN Journalism grad volunteers on his Journalism Alumni Association Board of Directors now. His background includes community relations with the L.A. Clippers during the 2014-15 season. studying sports management, football coaching and earning a fellowship for his entrepreneurship ventures. Follow him on Twitter @petecertified.


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