Kobe Bryant had big plans

Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, 41, and daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant,13, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, sources tell CNN.

Posted: Jan 26, 2020 3:11 PM
Updated: Jan 27, 2020 10:15 AM


A few hours ago I was sitting inside an Orange County coffee shop, happily eating oatmeal and typing away, when a friend texted me this:

News reports that Kobe Bryant is dead.

I didn't believe it.

I. Still. Don't. Believe. It.

For the past two years, I've been researching and writing a book about the 1996-04 Lakers -- aka the Shaq-Kobe-Phil years. When a writer digs deep into a project and devotes the majority of his days and hours to understanding a group of people, the idea that one of the individuals might suddenly cease to exist ... well, it makes no sense. It just doesn't compute, in the way JFK's death didn't compute for my parents; in the way Len Bias' death didn't compute for me at age 14.

So, again, I still don't believe it.

The Kobe Bryant of my book is a complex figure -- perhaps the most multifaceted athlete I've chronicled since my Walter Payton biography of a decade ago. He's far more than the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer. Far more than the five NBA titles and 18 All-Star nods. Coming out of Pennsylvania's Lower Merion High in 1996, he entered the NBA Draft with a cockiness that was equal parts offputting ('Kobe Bryant has decided to skip college and take his talents to the NBA,' he said at a press conference inside the school gym) and remarkable. A prep teammate told me the story of a young Kobe doing sprints on a 95-degree Fahrenheit day, then sitting inside a car with the heat blasting -- just to build his endurance.

Upon joining the Lakers, he arrived in Los Angeles knowing (not just believing -- but knowing) he was the best player on the team. Really, the league. Which was simply untrue. These were the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. Bryant, meanwhile, was raw and untested. His defensive skills were poor. His shot selection was maddening. He liked to pass as much as he liked to eat cardboard (he did not like eating cardboard).

Yet he possessed something few had witnessed before. Namely, a complete, total lack of self-doubt. Bryant would shoot. He would miss. He would shoot again. In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Western Conference Finals at Utah, Bryant infamously uncorked four air balls in the late stages of a 98-93 loss. It was the type of performance that has ruined many a young athlete. Yet that night, shortly after the Lakers' plane landed in Los Angeles, Bryant headed to nearby Palisades High to launch jumper after jumper until the sun rose.

Unlike Laker teammate O'Neal, his equally famous -- but much more gregarious teammate -- Bryant didn't concern himself with comradery, or clubbing or bowling with pals. Once, O'Neal treated the entire roster to a fancy meal at a seafood restaurant on the road. Bryant arrived 30 minutes late, armed with headphones and a book, and found his own table. Another time, he ran into one of his teammates, veteran Robert Horry, at an eatery, and was shocked to see him nursing a beer. 'Bob,' he said, 'how can you drink the night before we play?' Horry was dumbfounded. The game was 24 hours away -- and it was the preseason. 'That,' said Rick Fox, the longtime Laker, 'was just Kobe. He didn't always get it.'

O'Neal dreamed of serving as Bryant's big brother. Bryant didn't want a big brother. Or big uncle. Or someone to confide in. His favorite movie -- watched repeatedly on flights -- was 'The Ten Commandments' with Charlton Heston. His favorite pastime was jotting hip-hop lyrics into a pad. Unlike far too many athletes, he was constantly considering what would come after the game ended. He had plans -- big plans. To be a mogul. To be a forward thinker. To be a leader.

He was famously accused of raping a Colorado hotel clerk in 2003, and the ensuing legal drama often felt O.J. Simpson-esque in scale and magnitude. For many, it seemed to signify the end of Kobe Bryant as a spokesperson, as a hero, as a star. Even after the case was settled out of court. How would anyone ever cheer for Kobe Bryant again? How would anyone believe in him?

Yet -- they did. As Bryant's career wound toward its conclusion several years ago, the star who seemed to only crave victory and self-glory started to lighten up. He would laugh, joke, engage, poke, prod. He goofed around with teammates; made fun of his old legs and declining skills. Marriage, clearly, had been great for him, as had the births of his four daughters. He was, despite reports to the contrary, human. And increasingly self-aware.

And now, at age 41, he is gone, alongside Gigi, the 13-year-old daughter he coached.

Just when life was getting good.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 98190

Reported Deaths: 2969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7189161
DeSoto569464
Harrison394175
Jackson358570
Rankin337280
Madison334190
Lee293572
Forrest254275
Jones252780
Washington227879
Lafayette221240
Lauderdale2078126
Bolivar187370
Oktibbeha181952
Lamar176237
Lowndes160858
Neshoba1599104
Panola151631
Sunflower149146
Leflore143882
Warren141850
Pontotoc130116
Monroe125369
Pike124954
Copiah119933
Scott118027
Coahoma117530
Lincoln112353
Marshall111821
Grenada110136
Holmes110060
Yazoo106733
Simpson105847
Tate101938
Union101224
Leake96538
Adams94937
Wayne91521
Pearl River91453
Prentiss88418
Marion87537
Itawamba85921
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Covington83223
George78513
Tallahatchie78324
Newton78124
Winston74619
Tishomingo71039
Tippah70518
Chickasaw69524
Attala67225
Clarke61149
Walthall60426
Clay59919
Hancock59822
Jasper58415
Noxubee55816
Smith55115
Calhoun52912
Tunica50015
Montgomery47020
Claiborne46516
Yalobusha44414
Lawrence43914
Perry43221
Quitman3905
Greene38917
Stone38013
Humphreys37715
Jefferson Davis34711
Amite34210
Webster33913
Carroll33112
Wilkinson30818
Kemper29115
Sharkey26714
Jefferson2439
Benton2333
Franklin1993
Choctaw1876
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 138162

Reported Deaths: 2405
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson20221352
Mobile13558295
Tuscaloosa9029118
Montgomery8894187
Madison800580
Shelby616450
Lee601761
Baldwin564052
Marshall398345
Etowah357545
Calhoun356944
Morgan334929
Houston295421
Elmore273948
DeKalb246121
St. Clair237937
Walker236987
Talladega219030
Limestone215720
Cullman192220
Dallas179926
Franklin179430
Autauga179127
Russell17903
Lauderdale175934
Colbert168426
Blount162915
Escambia162024
Jackson161112
Chilton160930
Dale141844
Covington141628
Coffee13936
Pike122011
Chambers117942
Tallapoosa117385
Clarke110916
Marion97629
Butler91740
Barbour8967
Winston75112
Marengo72820
Pickens67215
Randolph67213
Bibb66411
Lowndes65927
Hale65328
Geneva6505
Lawrence63625
Cherokee62013
Bullock61015
Clay5929
Monroe5928
Washington56012
Crenshaw54532
Perry5436
Conecuh53811
Wilcox53211
Henry5145
Macon48318
Fayette47311
Sumter43419
Cleburne4085
Lamar3822
Choctaw35212
Greene30615
Coosa1743
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