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 4:39 PM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 12:28 PM


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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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1097128

Reported Deaths: 17438
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1437882222
Lake712531225
Allen65537867
Hamilton50147482
St. Joseph48760639
Elkhart39461538
Vanderburgh34221495
Tippecanoe30237271
Johnson27179463
Hendricks25845379
Porter25014381
Madison20656444
Clark19898275
Vigo18764308
LaPorte16857260
Delaware16425291
Howard16408311
Monroe16379217
Kosciusko13936163
Hancock12841185
Bartholomew12686188
Warrick11995189
Wayne11879265
Floyd11869225
Grant11701235
Morgan10252188
Boone9675120
Noble9069121
Henry9002165
Marshall8907146
Dearborn881799
Dubois8710139
Shelby8054128
Cass8014127
Lawrence7922182
DeKalb7591106
Huntington7448108
Jackson743893
Gibson7002118
Montgomery6910123
Harrison685296
Knox6827113
Steuben654186
Miami6477107
Whitley642260
Putnam631982
Clinton618976
Wabash6060108
Jasper601791
Jefferson5689103
Ripley549192
Adams532381
Daviess5003116
Scott480378
Wells471799
White468767
Greene461799
Clay457462
Decatur4529109
Jennings439666
Fayette435694
LaGrange419290
Posey403244
Washington384154
Randolph3818107
Fountain368362
Spencer355846
Fulton355572
Starke348772
Owen346276
Sullivan344954
Orange324470
Jay318650
Rush298332
Carroll289438
Franklin286744
Perry283253
Vermillion280458
Tipton247365
Parke246330
Pike244144
Blackford218044
Pulaski205658
Newton179052
Brown171850
Crawford167929
Benton163217
Martin150819
Switzerland145112
Warren132216
Union117816
Ohio91413
Unassigned0585

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1683472

Reported Deaths: 26483
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1766331826
Cuyahoga1641462636
Hamilton1122641528
Montgomery794721387
Summit702171199
Lucas618431017
Butler55878803
Stark525841170
Lorain41058639
Warren35404412
Mahoning35095769
Lake31445493
Clermont30711362
Delaware26682182
Trumbull26664611
Licking26200335
Medina25291351
Fairfield24173287
Greene24051369
Clark21653387
Portage20709280
Richland20587336
Wood19626246
Allen18542320
Miami17031348
Columbiana16502331
Muskingum16416206
Wayne15432304
Tuscarawas14086357
Marion13054194
Erie12423198
Ashtabula12314225
Scioto12235182
Pickaway12070151
Ross11487223
Hancock11256173
Geauga10666174
Lawrence10504171
Belmont10259231
Huron9588155
Jefferson9462225
Union939175
Sandusky9068166
Seneca8692156
Knox8618169
Washington8613156
Athens827396
Darke8270179
Ashland7840147
Auglaize7741115
Shelby7337132
Defiance7210114
Crawford7082150
Brown7052115
Fulton7016111
Logan6857108
Mercer681697
Guernsey680283
Highland6615117
Madison641389
Clinton6388106
Williams628798
Preble6171139
Putnam6089120
Jackson572396
Champaign568286
Perry558879
Coshocton5552103
Ottawa553599
Morrow506464
Fayette483170
Hardin477899
Gallia462978
Pike459076
Van Wert454691
Adams4514109
Henry424976
Hocking401493
Holmes3939137
Wyandot367973
Carroll351578
Paulding319349
Meigs302457
Monroe231860
Noble216447
Morgan210138
Harrison205152
Vinton183937
Unassigned05
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The warming trend is expected to continue through Thursday before cooler air returns to the Midwest.
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