Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 is one of those moments people will always remember where they were when they heard the news.
“A lot of guys dropped to the floor and started crying,” says Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr of his team’s practice that day. “Nothing happened for 10 minutes. We all just sat there in silence. It was one of the worst moments of all of our lives. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that day.”
USA TODAY Sports is looking back at that day and the days since to mark the first anniversary. Those who knew Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the seven others who died are still trying to make sense of the crash, as are those who were fans of the NBA legend.
Best-selling author Jeff Pearlman spent 2½ years writing a book about the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-Phil Jackson Lakers, and explains that truthfulness is needed when discussing Bryant’s full life.
The first lawsuit was filed on the same day more than 20,000 mourners packed into Staples Center to say goodbye to Bryant and Gianna. Now there are at least nine cases in state or federal court and at least 35 listed attorneys from a dozen firms – plus the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hundreds of murals have been painted in honor of Bryant, Gianna, and the seven others who died, including more than a dozen within walking distance of Staples Center. “There are probably murals in every corner of the world that I don’t know about,” says Mike Asner, who oversees kobemurals.com.
Bryant’s influence runs deep in the NBA. Many of today’s players grew up watching Bryant and modeling aspects of their game after him. Moves. Shots and dunks. Footwork. Mid-range dominance. “He was our generation’s Jordan in terms of iconic moves,” says Steph Curry.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the championship season, and many of the players on that team are still in touch and still talking about Bryant’s exploits and his death. “Nobody could, and nobody can, make sense of it,” says Jeremy Treatman, an assistant coach with the Aces’ state title team.
The surviving family members are finding different ways to work through their grief, from a benefit concert to commemorative coins.
The facts surrounding the crash – from the pilot’s experience, to the weather conditions, to the helicopter’s safety features – are known. And a final determination on what caused the crash is now weeks away with the National Transportation Safety Board set to release its final report on Feb. 9.
The Church in the Canyon, located across the street from the site of the crash, welcomed fans immediately after the crash to mourn the death of Bryant and eight others. “It was very life changing,” said Irvin Guillermo, 32, of the sermon Pastor Bob Bjerkaas delivered.
The Mamba Sports Academy has changed its name, but the mission remains the same following Bryant’s death. “We found a common ground where we could at least go and be in any environment that we all loved and do the things we love to get better at,” says Sports Academy CEO Chad Faulkner. “We found a right meeting place for some good healing to happen.
Several months before his death, Bryant invited NBA players to his exclusive – and now legendary – mini-camp. Those players still talk about the honor and the lessons learned. “For me, it was drop everything on the schedule and make it happen,” Sixers forward Tobias Harris said. “Just to be able to learn from my idol. Once I got the call, I was all in.”
Source: USA TODAY