On the morning of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memorial service, news broke that his widow has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter on which the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a Calabasas, California, hillside crash last month.
Vanessa Bryant’s lawyers are seeking unspecified damages from Island Express, arguing that fog conditions on Jan. 26 should have prevented the company from putting lives at unnecessary risk, according to TMZ. The lawsuit also alleges that Kobe Bryant’s longtime pilot, Ara George Zobayan, who died in the crash, was previously disciplined for violating visual flight rules in 2015.
More from TMZ:
The lawsuit also says the pilot was going 180 miles per hour in the heavy fog in a steep decline.
The lawsuit claims the pilot failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff, failed to obtain proper weather data prior to the flight, failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy condition, failed to maintain control of the helicopter and failed to avoid “natural obstacles” in the flight path.
The lawsuit also alleges that the helicopter was unsafe, per TMZ. The New York Times reported earlier this month that while Zobayan was certified to use the helicopter’s sophisticated navigation system, Island Express was not, calling into question the legality of flying in the foggy condition. National Transportation Safety Board officials also announced that the helicopter was not equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System that could have alerted Zobayan prior to the crash.
“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” Monday’s lawsuit read, according to L.A. Times reporter Nathan Fenno.
More than 20,000 ticketed fans arrived at Staples Center Monday morning out of tens of thousands who applied for tickets to the ceremony honoring Kobe and Gianna’s memory, according to ESPN.
Fans who attended received a picture book featuring the Bryant family.
NBA players, greats in attendance
Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Fox, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Stephen Curry, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving and A.C. Green are among the current and former NBA players sighted at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Boston Celtics players who were in town for Sunday’s game against the Lakers stayed for the memorial. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis shared images of their tickets on social media.
“She had rhythm and swag ever since she was a baby,” Vanessa said.
She described a confident, driven and talented teenager who spoke Mandarin and Spanish as an eighth-grader and gave pointers to the boy’s basketball team at her school “like the triangle offense.”“Gigi would have likely become the best player in the WNBA,” Vanessa said to applause. “She would have made a huge difference in women’s basketball.”
“I want my daughters to remember the amazing person, husband and father he was — the kind of man who wanted to teach future generations to be better and keep them from making his own mistakes,” Vanessa said.
She closed with a message for Kobe.
‘God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together.
“Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”
Women’s basketball greats honor Kobe, Gianna
WNBA and UConn great Diana Taurasi and reigning John Wooden Award winner and Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu paid tribute to both Kobe and Gianna.
“Gigi in many ways represents the future of women’s basketball,” Taurasi said. “Gigi already had goals to play for UConn. That in itself showed her fearless mentality.”
Ionescu spoke of modeling her approach to the game after Bryant’s.
“Growing up I only knew one way to play the game of basketball,” Ionescu said. “Fierce, with obsessive focus. I was unapologetically competitive. I wanted to be the best. I loved the work even when it was hard. Especially when it was hard.”
UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma then recounted speaking with Kobe about coaching Gigi’s youth basketball team and watching her play.
“Gianna passed it when she was open,” Auriemma said to laughs. “I thought ‘she’s not listening to her father.’”
Pelinka said that he was in church that Sunday morning when Kobe reached out to ask for help securing an internship for Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of John and Keri Altobelli, who died in the crash along with their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was one of Gianna’s basketball teammates.
“I grabbed my phone and text Kobe back that I had seen the baseball agent at a Lakers game just the other night and was happy to help him with whatever he wanted. It was now just past 9:30. Kobe text back explaining his desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters. Kobe vouched for the girl’s character, intellect and work ethic. He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her. I text Kobe right back and said I would put a plan in motion to help get that done. A handful of minutes later, Kobe and Gianna and seven other beautiful souls ascended into heaven. “Kobe had been texting me from the helicopter… Kobe’s last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future.”
He then recounted a time that Kobe challenged his son’s 12-year-old boy’s All-Star basketball team to a game against Gianna’s girl’s team.
“Our boys got smashed,” Pelinka said while admiring the precision of Gianna’s team under Kobe’s guidance.
Alicia Keys’ ‘Moonlight Sonata’ tribute
Kobe’s agent and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka shared a story about Bryant learning to play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata” on piano by ear for Vanessa.
“By the end of the week, he had the entire piece mastered, and he played it for me without a mistake,” Pelinka said. “In my heart, I knew that moment was one of Kobe’s grandest feats for his deepest loves.”
Alicia Keys then took the stage to to play “Moonlight Sonata” accompanied by a string quartet.
MJ: ‘I’ll have to look at another crying meme’
Michael Jordan was the player Kobe’s game was most frequently compared to. Along with playing the same shooting guard position, the two shared the same intense competitive streaks and championship desire.
Jordan spoke about his relationship with Kobe as Kobe came up in the NBA.
“In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank,” Jordan said. “He left it all on the floor. Maybe it surprises people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends. … He was like a little brother.”
Jordan said that Bryant would call him to ask for advice on basketball, business and “the triangle offense.”
“At first, it was an aggravation,” Jordan said. “But then it turned into certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. … As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I can be.”
Jordan, in tears, found room for a joke at his own expense while honoring Kobe.
“Now he’s got me. I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next … I told my wife I didn’t want to do this because I didn’t want to see this for the next three or four years.”
Shaq gets big laughs with Kobe story
Shaquille O’Neal provided perspective on Kobe like only he could, sharing a story about his early days playing with him en route to three NBA championships together.
“The day Kobe gained my respect, the guys were complaining, said ‘Shaq, Kobe’s not passing the ball,’” O’Neal said. “I said ‘I’ll talk to him.’
“I said ‘Kobe. There’s no I in team.’ Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in there mother f—er.’ I went back and told Rick [Fox] and Big Shot Bob [Horry], ‘just get the rebound. He’s not passing.’”
Christina Aguilera then sang a rendition of “Ave Maria” before the ceremony closed with Bryant’s Oscar-winning short film “Dear Basketball.”
The Lakers missed out on adding the guard they need when Darren Collision opted not to come out of retirement earlier this month, but it was reported on Friday that the Lakers are expected to add depth to its frontcourt and sign Markieff Morris, who agreed to a contract buyout from the Pistons.
With a full roster of 15 players, the Lakers would need to waive a player to make room for Morris should he clear waivers, and that player will be four-time NBA All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, according to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.
Cousins’ departure brings an end to what was primed to be one of the NBA’s most exciting experiments when it came together last summer. Cousins was limited in the 2018-19 season due to injuries, but the Lakers hoped that he could rediscover his All-NBA form alongside former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis in LA. We never got to see Cousins take the floor with the Lakers, though, after he suffered a torn ACL last August.
The Lakers had no timetable for Cousins’ return, but had not ruled out a possible comeback in the playoffs this year. Coach Frank Vogel said during the All-Star break that Cousins was “on track” for a playoff return, but backtracked earlier this week, telling reporters that Cousins was “not close” to being ready.
PHILADELPHIA — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, general manager Sean Marks announced Thursday night.
Marks said the decision was made after Irving had visited with a specialist the past few days.
“He’s obviously upset about this, and we are here to support him, support the process moving forward with him and the rehabilitation,” Marks said before the Nets’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. “He saw specialists including our people at [New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery] and it has been a group consensus that at this point in time, and this juncture, this is the best course of action.”
Irving, who joined the Nets as a free agent last summer alongside Kevin Durant, played in just 20 games in his first season in Brooklyn. He missed 26 games over the span of nearly two months with a right shoulder impingement, before eventually returning in mid-January following a cortisone shot.
But after missing the final five games before the All-Star Break with a knee sprain he suffered in a nasty-looking fall in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Feb. 1, it was determined that it wasn’t worth Irving playing through pain in the shoulder any longer, and that surgery was the right course of action.
What wasn’t on the table, Marks said, was Irving getting another cortisone shot.
“I think we look at our players long-term health as the number one priority,” Marks said. “Kyrie has been adamant like the rest of us that he would take one cortisone shot and see how it goes.
“We are looking at the big picture here. We are not looking at the next 2-3 months. We are looking at the next 2-3 years.”
The possibility for surgery had been on the table during Irving’s initial absence. At the time, it was decided that the better path was for Irving to get the cortisone shot and see how his shoulder responded, in the hopes of avoiding surgery altogether.
“A cortisone shot lasts as long as it can,” Irving told reporters back on Jan. 4. “You either continue to get cortisone shots, which is obviously detrimental to your health and your muscles, or you go get arthroscopic surgery,” Irving said. “For me, it’s just about being able to go back out there after the right amount of rehab, the right amount of rest and recovery and see what we can do for the rest of the season and then reevaluate after a few months.”
It turned out, however, that it would be another six weeks before he would be shut down for the rest of the way.
Thursday’s announcement closes the door on a disappointing first season for Irving in Brooklyn. He played extraordinarily well at times, including scoring 55 points in his first-ever game for the Nets in a season-opening overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but also spent the vast majority of the season watching in street clothes alongside Durant, who is out with a torn Achilles tendon and officially ruled out a return this season in an interview earlier this week with Bleacher Report.
Rather than figuring out how Irving fits next to Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris ahead of Durant’s return next season, the Nets only saw them together for 19 games this season. Now, they’ll have to try to make the playoffs without Irving. The Nets entered Thursday seventh in the East, two games ahead of the eight-place Orlando Magic and five games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted Irving being ruled out will force the Nets to start from square one in terms of piecing together their roster when their two stars return next season.
“I think that’s the big thing,” Atkinson said. “You wanted some time to work things out, work on our continuity and obviously work on the chemistry of the team and how we’re going to use him. That’s the disappointing part. We’re not going to have that opportunity. We’ll have to start fresh next season and figure it out quickly. But that is the disappointing part. “I don’t know if there’s enough, especially when you throw Kevin into the mix. I think it’s going to be a different structure, a different chemistry, different rotations.”
That said, Atkinson was excited by the brief glimpses of what he saw from Irving, who averaged 27.4 points and 6.4 assists, on the court this season, and is looking forward to seeing more next year.
“I’ve said this before: He was better than I even thought, a better player than I thought, and I had tremendous respect for him in Cleveland and Boston,” Atkinson said. “Faster than I thought, more skilled than I thought, a higher level competitor than I thought, much more physical than I thought. I don’t think people give him enough credit for how physical he is on both ends, how active he is defensively and what an attacker he is. That bodes really well for the future.
“I really love the player, and I feel like we have a really good relationship. So, we’re in a good place there. Obviously, you want more reps, more time with him, but we’ll have time with him in the offseason, too, to connect and, when he gets healthy, to work with him a little bit.”
Marks said Irving is still evaluating his options and didn’t say when he would have the surgery. But Marks did indicate that the rehabilitation process would allow Irving to be back before the start of next season.
“I think that is something that will have to be determined,” Marks said of Irving’s rehab timeline. “With all surgeries once somebody goes in there and takes a look at it then you evaluate how long the rehab is.
“This is something that he should be back in plenty of time to be working out this summer and obviously be ready for next season.”
Like Atkinson, Marks was looking forward to having this season as an evaluation period for his newly built roster. The Nets signed LeVert and Taurean Prince to extensions before the start of this season, have to decide whether to do the same with Jarrett Allen before next season and have to deal with the free agency of Harris — one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters — this summer.
Marks will have to go into the summer, and make those decisions, without the benefit of seeing his roster have much time together on the court this season.
“I’d be lying if I said I wish all our guys weren’t healthy for the whole time. It’s been kind of a roller coaster year,” Marks said. “We’ve had Caris out as well. So we’ve had multiple guys who’ve had these strange, unforeseen injuries.
“But I have the utmost confidence in our performance staff, our doctors, all the specialists we’ve used as well. And also the guys. The guys have fought hard with their rehab and obviously that’s led by Kevin over the course of the last four or five months while he’s been a Net.”
Ayesha Curry is clapping back at her haters with her clever wit.
On Monday, the Family Food Fight host shared photos on Instagram from her recent Cabo San Lucas vacation with husband Stephen Curry when an internet troll commented on her appearance, comparing her to a “farm animal.”
In the pictures, Ayesha, 30, and Stephen, 31, are seen cuddling up next to each other while lounging on pool chairs.
Ayesha, who is wearing a blue and white tie-dye bikini, captioned the photos, “all the things” with sun, heart, champagne and wave emojis.
Responding to the cute selfies, the troll wrote, “Steph married to an actual real life farm animal.”
Ayesha was quick to come up with a clever response, writing “yes a GOAT I know” referring to the acronym meaning the “greatest of all time” as opposed to the animal.
The TV personality’s comment garnered over 1,200 likes and replies of praise for the star standing up for herself.
“The best clap back I’ve ever seen,” one user responded.
“You the real MVP!” another wrote.
During the couple’s getaway, both Ayesha and Stephen couldn’t resist sharing sweet — and sexy — photos of each other on social media.
On Sunday, the Golden State Warriors player posted a steamy photo of the pair. In the image, the athlete lifts up Ayesha and holds her with her legs wrapped around his waist. The television host, who was wearing a black and green bikini, gave her husband a playful lick on the forehead.
“Vacation vibes with my one and only 😍 like dat!” Stephen, who has been recovering from a hand injury over the last three months, captioned the snap.
Ayesha jokingly responded, “You coulda at least popped a filter on this. 😩 I love you though.”
LeBron James, at a muscular 6 feet 9 and 250 pounds, looks like he’s carved out of granite. But the Los Angeles Lakers superstar’s eating habits are not exactly Hall of Fame-worthy, according to an ex-teammate.
In a fun story posted Thursday, Thompson spilled the deets on mealtime with the NBA icon. It includes lots of syrup and desserts.
“He has like five french toast, drowns it in syrup with strawberries and bananas,” Thompson said. “Then he has like a four-egg omelette and then he goes and just fucking dunks on somebody. It doesn’t make sense.”
The King’s gut-busting regimen includes plenty of sweets, too.
“He eats desserts with every meal. He’ll come with his one-week diet, vegan crap, but he literally eats like it doesn’t make sense. He’s really a specimen,” Thompson continued. “I remember one year I tried to eat like he ate and it just didn’t work out. I started gaining weight and said, ‘Fuck this.’ I mean it works for him. He loves sweets. He loves sweets. He eats desserts and French toast. It’s crazy how his body just burns it.”
Thompson’s account doesn’t fully jibe with the somewhat more sensible diet James described on Tim Ferris’ podcast in 2018, although James did cop to eating unhealthy foods in the offseason and a love of wine.
Each year, millions of people forgo Cupid and his machinations to descend upon the NBA’s host city of choice in favor of something we all know and love: NBA All-Star Weekend. Sadly, I won’t be in attendance, but here’s a preview of what’s in store.
Friday: Celebrity Game + Rising Star Challenge
Eerily reminiscent of the MTV Rock & Jock games from yesteryear—minus Queen Latifah embarrassing Shawn Kemp on national TV—the celebrity game provides every recording artist, comedian, and bootleg celebrity with the opportunity to showcase their skills and bust each other’s asses on the basketball court. Now, do I ever watch this shit? Nope. But dudes like Quavo can legit hoop. So it might be worth checking out just to catch the “Stir Fry” rapper bring fire and brimstone to an unsuspecting Instagram “influencer” or retired basketball star.
Teams are broken down by players who are from either the USA or the rest of the world and every single participant is either a rookie or in their sophomore season—hence the name of the challenge. It’s a dope opportunity to witness future faces of the league like Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant blossom before our eyes, and also catch players you might not ever see otherwise because they play on terrible ass teams—like Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham.
For some inexplicable reason, the Skills Challenge is still somehow a thing. But nobody is here to see Tito or Marlon, dammit—we’re here for Michael. And with the Slam Dunk Contest being about as close to the Thriller Maker as we’ll get at this point, we, unfortunately, have to sit through the opening acts beforehand.
I won’t pretend to give a shit about the Skills Challenge, but the 3-Point Contest has low-key been must-see TV in recent years. Watching superstar players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving battle for the crown has been a delight, and with flamethrowers like Kings guard Buddy Hield and future MVP Trae Young participating it should be fun.
Now as for the main event, we already know Aaron Gordon is about to wreck shit. Who can forget his classic duel with two-time dunk champ Zach LaVine? Who sadly—or allegedly, rather—won’t be participating this year.
Thankfully, the rest of the field is filled out with some high flyers who should give the Magic forward some good competition, including Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat and White Men Can’t Jump detractor Pat Connaughton of the Milwaukee Bucks.
We’ll also be treated to a live performance by Damian Lillard’s rapper alter-ego, Dame D.O.L.L.A., at some point during the evening.
Sunday: Kobe Bryant Tributes + All-Star Game
Prior to the big finale, the NBA All-Star Game, expect to see plenty of love for Kobe Bryant throughout All-Star Weekend. Be it shoutouts, messages written on sneakers, or whatever else, Kobe and his late daughter, Gianna, will be the stars of the show the entire weekend.
But in an official capacity, songstress Jennifer Hudson has been tapped to pay tribute to the five-time NBA champion with what promises to be a spellbinding performance during player introductions. Of additional note, the All-Star Game itself will incorporate both Kobe and Gianna with its newly revealed format that includes the jerseys each team will wear and how the winner will be determined.
Oh, and guess who’s singing the national anthem? Chaka Khan!
Will LeBron channel the spirit of Kobe and black out for 50-plus points? Will Devon Booker, a late replacement for the injured Lillard, do the damn thing and put the league on notice for his initial snub? Will Joel Embiid wreak havoc in the paint since he finally doesn’t have to share the court with Ben Simmons?