When Kobe Bryant climbed aboard his helicopter on January 26, 2020, alongside his friends, peers, and daughter, the world had no idea what was about to happen. Kobe Bryant had been retired from the NBA for just under five years but his life after basketball was just getting started. With a rising profile in the sports media world as well as publicly sentimental moments with players like LeBron James and Michael Jordan, Kobe’s passing hit the sports world like a bag of bricks. Now, fans and family members around the world are gathering to mourn and honor the tragic passing of Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, and the seven other victims of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA.
On August 23rd, 2020, Kobe Bryant would have turned 42nd. Instead, his beloved wife took to the internet to share her love for Kobe and Gigi through a touching tribute on social media. Vanessa Bryant would post to her Instagram saying, “I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain.” Vanessa would go on to detail how much she missed Gigi, their ‘big hugs’, ‘kisses’, and ‘loud *** deep laugh’. Vanessa’s tribute post would go on to discuss Kobe’s touching tenderness, his patience, and all of the ways he helped raise such an amazing and incredible family.
As Vanessa Bryant pushed on in her public letter to Kobe and Gigi, she would explain how empty and broken her life has been since their passing. Vanessa wouldn’t just dwell on sadness, however, as she went on to praise surviving daughters Capri, Bianka, and Natalia for their strength and fortitude in each day as they helped to uplift and hold Vanessa strong in the wake of his passing. Vanessa closed out her message by speaking on Gigi, “I know my Gigi is celebrating you like she always has on our special days.”
The family of Kobe Bryant wasn’t alone in taking to the airwaves to celebrate their love for the departed Kobe and Gigi Bryant. In fact, athletes from every sport and corner of the globe took to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit to declare their appreciation for the ‘Black Mamba’. This would also include the team at Nike releasing a commercial titled ‘Better: Mamba Forever’ as part of their newest launch for Mamba Week. The commercial was narrated by prominent rapper Kendrick Lamar and the advertisement featured footage of Kobe, Nike athletes, and scenes from the many Black Lives Matter protests going on around the nation.
Kobe’s former NBA franchise was sure to honor him on his birthday as the Lakers would go on to post a career highlight reel of Kobe Bryant on that special Sunday. The highlight reel covered moments from Kobe’s Hall of Fame, 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers including the five titles that they had earned together. The Los Angeles Dodgers made plans to get in on the honors as they announced a moment of honor for both Gigi and Kobe before their matchup with the Colorado Rockies resumed that afternoon.
Social media woke up to the tragedy of Kobe Bryant’s passing but that same social media made his birthday a moment of reflection, love, and appreciation. Athletes like Hall of Famer Bill Russel and NFL star Russell Wilson were two of the most prominent superstar voices to speak up over the weekend but they were not alone. Former teammates, hip hop artists, politicians, fans, and journalists alike all turned out to share personal stories of the Black Mamba, his determination on the court, and the ways that he impacted their lives while off of it.
Kobe Bryant would play for the Los Angeles Lakers for two decades. During the time frame, Kobe Bryant would help lead Los Angeles to the annals of NBA history as one-half of the most dominant sports dynasty of all time, joined by Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant is a sure-fire NBA Hall of Famer and his impact on the game and world around it will not be forgotten.