Kobe Bryant had a nice relationship with all four of his kids — but his daughter Gianna was extra special.
Like her father, Gianna had a special interest in basketball. And like her father, she was quite good.
Unfortunately, the world will never get to see Gianna flourish in an athletic career. She and Kobe were two of the nine people who lost their lives in a devastating helicopter crash that took place on January 26.
According to Entertainment Tonight, the helicopter was headed toward Mamba Sports Academy near Thousand Oaks, California. Coach John Altobelli and his daughter Alyssa, also a basketball player, were on board.
Alyssa’s mom Keri also lost her life in the accident. The other passengers were identified as Harbor Day School assistant coach Christina Mauser, and Sarah and Payton Chester. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, didn’t survive. The cause of the crash is still being investigated, but a lot of people noted the foggy weather on Saturday while they were mid-flight.
The accident is upsetting for many reasons. Obviously, the NBA lost an icon. But knowing that three teens with so much promise lost their lives is hard to cope with.
Payton Chester, who was only 13, was very familiar with the Bryant family, as she played with the Mamba team quite a lot throughout the years. “She was on the Mamba team for years, she loved it,” La Serna High football coach Andy George, who was her uncle, said to the Orange County Register. “It was obviously a big part of her life. [Bryant] was always there for them. [Payton] wanted to play in high school and college.”
Alyssa Altobelli was another rising star. She loved the sport, and her father — who was also on the helicopter — loved the fact that she was being coached by Kobe. “[John Altobelli] loved going to every single practice, because it’s Kobe Bryant,” said Nate Johnson, the assistant coach from Orange Coast College, per the Daily Beast. “And he’s seeing him coach his daughter in a sport that she loved to play. He didn’t miss many practices and he loved going out and Kobe would talk to him.”
The Altobelli situation is especially tragic, as Alyssa had two siblings who were at home during the time of the crash. Her brother, JJ, and her sister, Lexi, are left without parents. This accident not only destroyed so much athletic potential, but it changed families forever. It’s important to mourn everyone along with Kobe.
Since Gianna was in the spotlight, her death is one of the hardest to process. She and Kobe were close since Kobe was both her father and her coach. Back in 2018, Kobe talked about how rewarding it was to watch her play and to see other talented young girls learn more about the sport.
“We’ve been working together for a year and a half and they’ve improved tremendously in that time. I’ve got a group of great parents, a group of really, really intelligent, hardworking girls, and — they’re all seventh graders, they’re all 12 years old — but they’ve been playing so well!” Kobe told Entertainment Tonight. “They’ve been playing eighth and ninth grade, they’ve been winning tournaments. But the most important thing is they keep improving, keep getting better and they love doing it. They love being around each other.”
Gianna had several nicknames. Some knew her best as “Gigi,” while others called her “Mambacita.” The latter was especially sweet, as Kobe’s nickname while on the court was “Black Mamba.” Without a doubt, Gianna’s talent and dedication would have secured her a spot as a professional athlete. She was learning from the best.
Kobe was quite proud of Gianna. His Instagram had a bunch of photos of her on the court, showing off her skills. The teen was also able to play basketball in high heels — which might not be the wisest choice for those starting up, but seems impressive for someone in Gianna’s position.
Kobe has even commented that Gianna was easy to train, since she was determined to go out there and play her best. “We haven’t had any issues of dad-daughter sort of thing,” he said, per Entertainment Tonight. “She’s very competitive and she’s a hard worker, so there haven’t been any issues with that.” Like father, like daughter.
He also made note of the video that went viral, where he was discussing the sport with Gianna on the sidelines. “We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes,” he said. “It wasn’t me sitting there as an athlete or a player or something like that, and it’s about me, and I don’t like that. It was her, she was having such a good time.”
Kobe also leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and their three other daughters — Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. Both Bianka and Capri are 3 and under, meaning that they didn’t get a lot of time to bond with their father the way that Natalia and Gianna did. Hopefully, they’ll be able to recover from this tragedy.
Of course, this is an incident that will leave a permanent scar — especially when thinking about Gianna. Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Delta Air Lines, in particular, tried to navigate the delicate situation for passengers boarding a flight to LA soon after the news of Kobe became widespread.
“It wasn’t an easy day, but just know that we’re here with you and know that you have your life,” a Delta agent told passengers. “So if there’s someone you haven’t spoken today, call them. If there’s someone you haven’t reached out to in a while, call them. Don’t text,” she continued. “We got to pick the phone up. … Cause they need to hear from you more than ever.”
The positivity was appreciated by passengers, who may have been scared to fly after hearing the news. Kobe’s accident was a major reminder that we often can’t control where life takes us. We need to appreciate every moment we have with loved ones. Time is never guaranteed.
We wish nothing but love to all the families who were affected by this horrific accident. While Gianna is no longer with us, her dedication and sportsmanship will always inspire young athletes. She didn’t get ahead in the sport by having a famous father — she worked hard for it, and she proved she had what it took to be a legend.