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 4:13 PM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 12:28 PM


SIGN UP FOR OUR SPORTS NEWSLETTER

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: 664446

Reported Deaths: 12663
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion909511650
Lake48568884
Allen36004640
Hamilton32182398
St. Joseph30166513
Elkhart25453419
Vanderburgh21300382
Tippecanoe20143203
Johnson16407361
Porter16042276
Hendricks15877300
Clark12018181
Madison11776319
Vigo11660231
Monroe10379163
Delaware9870179
LaPorte9802198
Howard9083199
Kosciusko8582111
Bartholomew7488147
Warrick7438151
Hancock7428133
Floyd7243170
Wayne6648192
Grant6446157
Boone610989
Morgan6106126
Dubois5925112
Dearborn549969
Cass547299
Marshall5439105
Henry542594
Noble510578
Jackson465167
Shelby461991
Lawrence4193113
Harrison402564
Gibson402083
Clinton396753
Montgomery389683
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350237
Huntington347377
Steuben339555
Wabash332676
Putnam331260
Ripley327862
Adams324749
Jasper318143
White297952
Jefferson295874
Daviess285696
Fayette272156
Decatur271188
Greene262080
Posey261431
Wells258675
Scott251350
LaGrange241870
Clay241444
Randolph225676
Spencer218930
Jennings216344
Washington212827
Sullivan203639
Fountain202142
Starke189051
Owen183253
Fulton179837
Jay178528
Carroll176619
Perry173736
Orange171250
Rush165322
Vermillion161442
Franklin159635
Tipton148441
Parke140016
Pike128233
Blackford120727
Pulaski107344
Newton96632
Brown95140
Benton92213
Crawford91713
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54011
Unassigned0432

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 974480

Reported Deaths: 16750
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1125851214
Cuyahoga964441832
Hamilton736841034
Montgomery47424903
Summit40474802
Butler35678505
Lucas35588685
Stark29495803
Warren22510271
Lorain22111414
Mahoning19532537
Lake18471318
Clermont18459201
Delaware16537116
Licking15037189
Fairfield14587180
Trumbull14381413
Greene13626218
Medina13448226
Clark12319248
Wood11604163
Portage11078164
Allen10804216
Richland10334183
Miami10048189
Muskingum8204112
Columbiana8160200
Pickaway8079107
Tuscarawas8063227
Marion8006125
Wayne7898193
Erie6925140
Ross6161128
Geauga6097136
Hancock6013116
Ashtabula5993152
Scioto597780
Lawrence527218
Union515237
Darke5040114
Belmont497659
Huron4838107
Jefferson4814107
Sandusky4785108
Seneca4709107
Washington470991
Athens465447
Mercer459180
Auglaize456480
Shelby442479
Knox4045101
Putnam400090
Madison394253
Ashland381381
Fulton381258
Defiance372983
Brown372244
Crawford359096
Logan356072
Preble353678
Clinton341152
Highland328649
Ottawa324869
Williams302962
Jackson290745
Champaign289249
Guernsey288444
Perry270447
Fayette269441
Morrow260934
Henry247058
Hardin246558
Holmes243493
Coshocton238054
Van Wert230154
Gallia223131
Adams217436
Pike216026
Wyandot211747
Hocking194754
Carroll181641
Paulding160530
Meigs135930
Noble129333
Monroe116927
Morgan101119
Harrison100724
Vinton76613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 32°
Angola
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 33°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 32°
Fort Wayne
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 32°
Lima
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 26°
Sunny & Seasonal Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events