CALABASAS, Calif. – Kobe Bryant, the basketball legend who was celebrated after his playing days as a storyteller, entrepreneur, and loving father, was killed along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas, California on Jan. 26.
The group was on its way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the helicopter crashed.
Authorities said in the days following the crash that the pilot of the helicopter had tried to avoid heavy fog in the area.
A probe into the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board in the states revealed there was no evidence to suggest engine failure was to blame.
News of the crash sent shockwaves around the world with many top athletes mourning him on social media.
Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, spoke about the crash for the first time a few days after her husband and daughter died.
She took to Instagram to thank people for the outpouring of support she and her family received in the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now,” Vanessa Bryant wrote. “I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”
A massive memorial came together outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Bryant played as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 seasons from 1996-2016.
During a public service, Michael Jordan told mourners he came to love Bryant as the little brother he never had, and as a student eager to learn from Jordan’s experiences and skills.
Jordan broke into tears with those words during a moving speech about his largely unpublicized friendship with Bryant.
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” Jordan said.
“And as I look (around) this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died, or else you wouldn’t be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother.”
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion and the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player. The Lakers would go on to win the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship in October.
-with files from Sportsnet, CityNews, NEWS 1130, and the Associated Press