*The clouds looming on the horizon on an overcast day obscured the sky and served as a backdrop, signifying the mood of onlookers as they viewed and took photos of a hilly mountainside, typical of the well-to-do Calabasas area.
That mountainside was the final destination for NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed along with his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers when his private helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B lost control, ending in a horrific, fiery crash at the scene.
“You can’t put words to this loss,” said Tim O’ Hayer, an NBA and Kobe Bryant fan spotted not far from the crash scene. “Dying with your daughter and a bunch of your friends, being a good Samaritan- he’s out doing service on a Sunday in a basketball camp. In my eyes, he’s a saint.”
While Kobe Bryant wasn’t a saint, he had saint-like achievements in his NBA career. At 18 years and 72 days, Bryant was one of the youngest to enter the NBA and the first guard to go from high school directly to the NBA’s professional ranks. He appeared in the NBA’s All-Star game 18 times, won the NBA Championship 5 times, was the Finals MVP twice, voted 15 times to the NBA Defensive team, and earned two Olympic Gold medals. However, Bryant was more than just a basketball player. He was revered internationally and had wide international appeal.
Ahmed, a Kobe Bryant fan from India, who was also at the crash site, fondly remembered the NBA star.
“In the 90s, when Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal had the three-peat, that’s when I became an NBA and basketball fan,” said Ahmed. “I idolized him, and he’s been my role model ever since. That’s why I’m here.”
Fans flocked to the crash site in Calabasas, California, including Toa, a young man from the south coast of Africa, the Ivory Coast.
“He’s been a major staple in my life,” said Toa. “He left a great legacy- his work ethic, his helping everyone- giving information on how to achieve goals, breaking everything down to the smallest details to be used after basketball. If you traveled down a different avenue, you can take the same drive and apply it.”
Debbie Soto of Sylmar, who was spotted leaving a flower at a makeshift memorial to Kobe Bryant, felt as if she was losing a member of her family.
“He meant a lot for our whole family,” said Debbie Soto, choking away tears. “When he had the championships, we would always have big parties at the house, and we did our own parade up and down the street. He means a lot, especially to my son, Cassius.”
Basketball players throughout the world were inspired by Kobe Bryant, and his influence is apparent through many walks of life, including with young, female athletes. “I’ve been watching him my whole life,” said Nancy, a young college player, that enjoys basketball and pickup games. “He inspired me to play basketball at a young age at my school.”
At the Staples Center, in downtown Los Angeles, many Kobe Bryant and Laker fans have gathered to pay their respects to the legend, with makeshift memorials in several locations near and at the venue. Tears could be seen everywhere and Cynthia Douglas, a huge Laker fan couldn’t hide her emotion.
“This is really sad, what happened, but I just want to thank Kobe for all the memories,” said Cynthia Douglas through tears. “I have a son who loves basketball because of Kobe Bryant. He was a great role model to us all. The mentality, the drive, the determination and everything that he’s given to LA and the world will always be remembered. He’ll never be forgotten in our hearts, minds, and every time we watch a basketball game we will think of Kobe Bryant.”
Kobe’s legacy of hard work, grit and determination will be remembered, but the cloud of emotion, lowered to the citizens of Los Angeles and to the world, has made January 26, 2020 one of the saddest days in world history. Kobe Bryant had a multi-generational, multi-racial effect on millions of citizens worldwide. “It’s a sad day for Los Angeles, a sad day in sports, a sad day for Kobe’s family,” said Kathy Lopez, a Laker fan at Staples Center the day after the crash.
“It’s just sad for everyone period.” Indeed, many fans, journalists, entertainers and even worldwide politicians are struggling to understand the tragedy and events of January 26th, 2020. “There’s nothing we can put this up against,” said Tim O’ Hayer. “We’d probably accept this more if Kobe were in a car accident by himself, but in a helicopter crash, in a helicopter he owned, it’s just too much to comprehend.”
Despite the cloud of emotions looming beyond the overcast day in Los Angeles, the brilliance of Kobe Bryant transcends the sport of basketball. Bryant leaves a legacy of work ethic and caring for others, which is why he was beloved by millions. Tim O’ Hayer explained what Kobe’s legacy meant to him and to world civilization.
“Do your best and good things will happen,” said O’Hayer when asked what most inspired him about NBA star Kobe Bryant. “Just never quit, never stop. Be that guy or lady that’s looking out for other people, not your own special interests.”
Thanks to Basketballreference.com for providing information on Kobe Bryant’s brilliance.
Buddy Sampson, Publisher, The Scoop LA is a veteran journalist and professional musician that has covered The OJ Simpson Trial and many news stories. As a professional musician, he has graced the stages of Los Angeles and Europe.
Kim Webster is a photojournalist that has graced the pages of The Scoop LA, and several other Los Angeles publications.