On January 26 the sporting world suffered a terrible loss. Basketball star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident in Los Angeles along with his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna. Another seven people were also killed in the crash including two other young girls. Alyssa Altobelli, her father John, and her mother Keri, as well as assistant coach Christina Mauser, were fatally injured. Payton Chester, a teammate, and her mother Sarah, as well the pilot Ara Zobayan were also pronounced dead at the scene.
Vannessa Bryant, the wife of Kobe Bryant and mother of Gianna Bryant, organised a public memorial service for her husband and daughter. The tearful memorial was held on February 24 to represent the numbers that Kobe and Gianna played on the basketball field. Many celebrities and friends of Kobe attended the service including Michael Jordan, Beyoncé, Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West, Kris Jenner and Khloe Kardashian.
Beyoncé performed one of her hit songs, ‘XO’, as requested by Vanessa. As it was one of Kobe’s favourite songs, Beyonce opened the service with this. The song was dedicated to the victims of the helicopter accident, with Beyoncé showing sensitivity by changing the lyrics from ‘crashing into you’ to ‘laughing into you’. The singer also performed ‘Halo’, following her explaining ‘I am here because I love Kobe’, revealing she was a very close friend of the Bryant family.
Another close friend of the Bryant family, Jimmy Kimmel, was the master of ceremonies. Kimmel choked back tears as he spoke of the victims and their families. He explained how he could not even begin to imagine how painful this tragic accident would be for the families affected. He also referenced the respect and admiration of people in the United States of America, and all over the world for Kobe. The basketball star was honoured through tributes and murals, not only in Los Angeles, where he played for the LA Lakers but also across the country. Teams that would have competed against him and their fans have honoured the late basketball player showing how significant he was in the basketball world.
Michael Jordan, a mentor and hero of Kobe Bryant, also spoke at the service. The former basketball player was in tears as he explained that when Kobe died, a piece of him also died. He referred to Kobe as his ‘little brother’ and explained that he would dearly miss him. Other celebrities in the crowd were also in tears. As the camera panned to Jennifer Lopez, the singer was visibly distraught.
In an amazing act of strength and courage, Vanessa Bryant honoured her daughter and husband in a half an hour heart-wrenching speech. She began speaking of her ‘sweet’ and ‘loving’ daughter. There was not a dry eye in the room as she expressed her love and admiration for Gianna. The mother choked back tears as she expressed her sadness that she would ‘never be able to teach her how to drive’ and that she would ‘never be able to tell her how beautiful she looked on her wedding day’. Vanessa spoke of how she was a ‘daddy’s girl’ but how she also dearly loved her mother. She said she knew this as she would hug her so tightly that she could ‘feel her love’.
Vanessa then proceeded to speak about her ‘soul mate’, Kobe. She described him as a charismatic gentleman who was loving, romantic and adoring. While others mourned Kobe as a basketball legend, Vanessa expressed that she could not see him as a celebrity or just an amazing basketball player. For her, he was the father to their children and her loving husband.
Vanessa Bryant’s speech ended by telling of how similar and close Gianna and Kobe were. She told onlookers that ‘God knew they could not be on Earth without each other’ and how ‘he had to bring them home together’. This was followed up with her telling to look after ‘Gigi’, and she would look after ‘Nati’, ‘BiBi’ and ‘Koko’, and that they were ‘still the best team’.
Gianna is being remembered as an amazing athlete that was sweet, intelligent and always looking the help others. She was also a strong advocate for women in sports, even at such a young age. She petitioned for equal pay for women and men in sport, particularly in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). In school, she wrote assignments about how the difference in pay between the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Men’s National Basketball Association (NBA) leagues was not fair. She was predicted to have become one of the best players in the WNBA. In school, she even offered to show the boy’s basketball teams some pointers.
There was some controversy surrounding the legacy of Kobe Bryant and how he should be remembered. While most are remembering him as one of the best basketball players of all time, his death also brought up some of the controversies in his life. In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused by a 19-year-old woman of sexual assault.
While the charges were dropped in 2004 following an out of court settlement, his public image was severely tarnished. During the time of the trial, he was married to Vanessa and admitted publicly that he had been unfaithful but denied that the incident was not consensual. In the wake of his death, many claimed that the basketball player should not be remembered as a hero, as a result of this incident. Others claim that Kobe should be remembered for all the good that he did. This includes his dedication to basketball and his love for his wife and children.
Regardless of the events of his life, Kobe will be dearly missed by his friends and family. He will be remembered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and will go down in history. The world will continue to keep the victims of this terrible accident and their families in their thoughts.