Kobe Bryant was not in the bubble with the Los Angeles Lakers last fall when they won the NBA Championship. He wasn’t at the All-Star weekend in Chicago where half of the players wore his number on their uniforms, the other half wearing his daughter’s jersey number. He was not there to hear the Basketball Hall of Fame announce that his career deserved to be dedicated.
Yet his presence was so clearly felt at each of these moments.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other people who boarded that helicopter on a Sunday morning in Southern California have been gone for exactly a year now – Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that claimed their lives .
Tears flowed. Stories have been told. Tributes were paid.
And if there was any doubt about the kind of legacy left by Bryant – five-time NBA champion, still the 4th scorer in NBA history, a 20-year league veteran – he has been erased now. It still resonates, perhaps more than ever.
“May God have his soul, may God have the soul of Gigi and the other seven who perished,” said Miami assistant coach and former NBA player Caron Butler, who was close to Bryant for years. “The legacy he left, man, he did it all. He inspired. When you think you are better, embrace the storm, have the right mindset and the right outlook on life and always try to be better, he embodied everything and that is why his legacy will live on forever.
Bryant is gone, but that doesn’t mean Butler is hesitating on a promise he made. Butler had a long-standing affinity for Mountain Dew, even drinking for games when others thought he had Gatorade. When Butler played for the Lakers, Bryant strongly urged him to give up the habit.
Butler recorded a commercial for Mountain Dew last year. He took a sip for the cameras. He then spat out the drink.
“Out of respect for my brother,” Butler said.
Butler and Bryant were brothers in the sense of his teammate. Tony Altobelli lost his real brother, John Altobelli, in the crash. Alyssa Altobelli was a teammate of Gianna Bryant; she was in the helicopter with John, her father and her mother Keri.
John Altobelli was the baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Southern California. Tony Altobelli is the sports information director of this school; Sports information directors are responsible for promoting their teams, in good times and bad, always trying to find a positive way to tell a story. And one way or another, even for such a painful story, Tony Altobelli managed to do it.
His brother died with Kobe Bryant. This is how the world learned who his brother was.
“It’s nice to see his memory, and just his way of life, being celebrated by people far beyond our region,” said Tony Altobelli. “It takes the sting out of what happened a bit. I joked that if that were to happen, I’m happy that a global personality was with him when it happened because now the whole world knows my brother, sister-in-law and niece. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Christina Mauser also died in the crash; she was one of Bryant’s academy coaches. Tony Altobelli and Mauser’s husband Matt became friends last year; they did not know each other until January 26, 2020. Matt Mauser hosted a concert to honor those who died in the crash and to serve as a benefit to the foundation he created in memory of his wife; it airs Tuesday evening.
Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, 13, another of the players with Gianna and Alyssa, were also on board. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was also killed. The…
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