Updated: Feb 26
It was a normal day in Los Angeles, California before tragedy struck and rocked the world of basketball. A helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, along with Gianna’s teammates, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, their families, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Sarah Chester, and assistant coach, Christina Mauser, flew in bad weather with heavy fog and low-lying clouds. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, had little visibility while flying the helicopter and following a sharp left turn, the aircraft rapidly descended, resulting in a crash which would yield no survivors.
People aboard the aircraft were on their way to a tournament game where Bryant would be coaching his daughter's team alongside Mauser. He revealed in an interview that he started to travel via helicopter to avoid traffic and be able to train in his given sport, while also being able to spend more time with his daughters. The helicopter ride which was anticipated to be just twenty minutes clearly outweighed the car ride which would’ve been close to three hours.
The group of passengers left Orange County at 9:06 am on Sunday, January 26th, 2020, and were scheduled to land at about 9:26 am in Thousand Oaks. However, the company owning the helicopter later shared that it was not intended to fly in such bad conditions. Experienced pilot, Zobayan, who has been flying for the company for nearly twenty years, decided to hover over an area of land so controllers would be able to track the aircraft. He also tried to fly over the layer of clouds so his visibility would be better, but this would soon be deemed to be unsuccessful.
During the helicopter ride, fog conditions worsened and was even described as being “milk-like” by witnesses. The helicopter was too low to be detected by controllers and after 15 minutes of hovering over the Burbank area, the aircraft picked up speed and crashed at 9:45 am in a Calabasas canyon. The passengers were only minutes away from their final destination.
Wreckage at the crash site has been analyzed and an in-depth investigation of the crash is still underway, but the bodies of the victims have been identified on both Sunday and Monday. The aircraft came down in one piece but was ultimately shattered to pieces and engulfed in flames when it made contact with the land.
Those who have lost their lives in this sudden tragedy are being remembered in Los Angeles and across the world. The shocking death of Kobe Bryant, especially, retired Los Angeles Lakers player, has put an entire community of basketball lovers in mourning. People have been remembering Bryant as a talented athlete and a loving father to his four daughters and husband to his wife, Vanessa Bryant. His “mamba mentality” greatly defined his character with the mentality encompassing his ever-lasting drive for basketball and motivation to become a better athlete.
Photo Credit: Apu Gomes
NBA players, some of which being Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant have released public statements in the wake of Bryant’s death. Teams have also honored the late legend by starting their first game since the tragedy with a 24 and 8-second violation, remembering the two jersey numbers Bryant had throughout his 20-year-long career with the NBA.
LeBron James also delivered a heartfelt speech at a Lakers game on Friday, January 31st, 2020, detailing how united supporters of the Lakers have been since the incident and how Bryant entered the league as a teenager but left much more than that: one of the top all-time scoring NBA players, 5-time NBA champion, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist to name a few. In an emotional sentiment during James’ speech, he said, “In the words of Kobe Bryant ‘Mamba Out’ but in the words of us ‘not forgotten’. Live on brother.”
Fans of the Laker Nation have been making makeshift memorials for Bryant throughout the streets of Los Angeles, leaving flowers, basketballs, Bryant jerseys, and candles in his remembrance. As Kobe Bryant once said, “Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.” Whether you are a basketball fan or not, it is for certain that Bryant has made an impact on the NBA and that his legacy will always be remembered.