Vanessa Bryant Demands ‘Harshest Possible Discipline’ for Deputies Who Allegedly Leaked Photos From Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Crash

Jay Connor | THE ROOT

Sheriff’s deputies are entrusted to protect and serve our communities, but it would appear that an undisclosed number of them have violated that trust, according to a statement released by Vanessa Bryant and her attorney, Gary C. Robb.

In response to reports that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies leaked graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 13-year-old Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and seven others, Vanessa aired out those responsible in a scathing letter written by Robb that she posted on Instagram.

“Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site,” the statement said. “First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD would allegedly breach their duty.”

The letter continued, “This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated.”

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CORRECTED: The department at issue is the Los Angeles County Fire Dept (LACoFD) NOT the LAFD KANSAS CITY, Mo.–(repost: BUSINESS WIRE)–Statement From Gary C. Robb, Legal Counsel on Behalf of His Client, Vanessa Bryant: Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site. Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office on January 26th and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers. This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families. At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests. First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD would allegedly breach their duty. This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents. Mrs. Bryant is grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity. We ask that anyone else who has information as to the facts underlying these alleged grievous and shameful incidents contact our office at 816–474-8080 or email via www.robbrobb.com

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Bryant and Robb are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation into these alleged incidents.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times broke the news that first responders at the scene of the crash had been sharing photos outside of official business, with TMZ reporting that this included a deputy trainee sharing photos at a bar in order to “impress a girl.” A bartender allegedly overhead this conversation and filed an online complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in disgust. And in attempt to keep this matter under wraps, the Sheriff’s Department then ordered deputies to delete any pictures from the crash.

“Every police department struggles with the same thing, where people take photos and they’re not evidence,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the Times. “So that’s a practice we have to make sure that everyone walks away, and there is no evidence other than the official photos of evidence that are taken for criminal purposes.”

In the statement, Robb further revealed that the mother of four visited the sheriff’s office immediately following the crash on Jan. 26 and requested that the area be guarded from photographers and designated as a “no-fly zone.”

In its own statement issued on Friday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that Villanueva was “deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act” and announced that “a thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the No. 1 priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”

Kobe Bryant’s widow files wrongful death lawsuit against helicopter company

Ben Rohrbach | Yahoo Sports

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.

TMZ first reported the lawsuit on Monday. Multiple news outlets have since confirmed it.

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.

Island Express, which has reportedly experienced three other helicopter crashes since 1985, temporarily suspended operations in the week following the latest crash, according to ABC News.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant honored with memorial service at Staples Center

Watch entire memorial service above

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

A memorial service honoring the memory of Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center has concluded. The ceremony was an opportunity for Bryant’s fans and the public to mourn and honor the fallen Los Angeles Lakers icon who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven others on Jan. 26. Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest in a private ceremony in Corona Del Mar, California, on Feb. 7.

Here’s an account of the day’s events.

Thousands of fans arrive at Staples Center

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.

Former Los Angeles Lakers watch during a celebration of life for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kyrie Irving, DrayStephen Curry during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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.

Beyonce opens with one of Kobe’s ‘favorite songs’

Beyonce opened the ceremony with a rendition of her hit song “XO,” which she noted was one of Kobe’s favorites.

“Because I love Kobe, and this was one of his favorite songs,” Beyonce said as she urged the Staples Center crowd to sing along.

‘Celebration of life’

Comedian, talk show host and Lakers fan Jimmy Kimmel fought back tears to get the talking portion of ceremony underway and introduce Vanessa. 

Before Vanessa took the stage, Kimmel urged fans in attendance to hug and shake hands with their neighbors “to to be grateful for life and the fact that we are all here together.”

‘Gigi would have been the best player in the WNBA’

Kobe’s widow and Gianna’s mother Vanessa opened by speaking on Gianna’s memory.

“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.”

‘MVP of girl dads’

She then spoke about Kobe, whom she described as “the MVP of girl dads.”

“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.”


Michael Jordan helps Vanessa Bryant off the stage after her moving speech

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.’”

‘Kobe’s last act was heroic’

Rob Pelinka shared that he was texting with Kobe during the fatal helicopter flight.

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.”

Vanessa Bryant remembers her ‘best friend’ in latest Instagram posts

Chris Cwik | Yahoo Sports

Vanessa Bryant misses her best friend. Bryant paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant in two Instagram posts Wednesday. In the posts, Vanessa Bryant called Kobe Bryant “my best friend” and “the best daddy.”

The first post Vanessa Bryant shared was a picture of Kobe Bryant. There were a series of hashtags in the text area of the post. Vanessa Bryant also said she misses Kobe “so much.”

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people who were killed in a helicopter crash in January. NBA teams, players, fans and people who knew Kobe have paid tribute to him in various ways since his death.

Vanessa Bryant also posted a video of Kobe Bryant in a separate post. In the video, Bryant is answering interview questions. When asked about his best friend, Bryant responds by saying, “My wife.”

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It’s not the first time Vanessa Bryant has posted about Kobe since his death. Vanessa Bryant posted a family picture days after the helicopter crash. In it, she celebrated Kobe and Gianna’s lives, and urged fans to donate to MambaOnThree.org.

Vanessa Bryant has continued to push for donations, asking fans who wanted to contribute to the makeshift Kobe Bryant memorial outside Staples Center to instead give to the fund.

Lakers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant in emotional ceremony with LeBron James, Usher and Boys II Men

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the Staples Center to play their first game since NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident last weekend. In the pre-game broadcast on ESPN, a panel of former players and broadcasters shared their memories of Bryant, and ESPN aired a phenomenal tribute video narrated by actor Michael B. Jordan.

Lakers reveal Kobe Bryant logo on uniforms, Staples Center court to honor fallen icon

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

After postponing Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers are moving forward with basketball in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death.

They’ll start Friday night at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, which promises to be an ode to Bryant as much as it is a basketball game.

New Kobe logo

Prior to tip-off, the Lakers revealed new logos honoring Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday outside of Los Angeles.

The logo will also be placed as a patch on Lakers uniforms. The Lakers revealed the patch logo on a No. 28 Lakers jersey, a nod to the No. 2 that Gianna wore on her youth basketball team and the No. 8 Kobe wore during his early days with the Lakers.

Fans in attendance on Friday will find T-shirts at their seats emblazoned with Bryant’s jersey number. Half of the fans will receive No. 8 T-shirts and the other half will find No. 24 T-shirts, representing the number Bryant wore late in his career.

Each number has also been placed on the floor on the sideline.

Fans without tickets asked to stay home

Staples Center officials have asked fans without tickets to stay home to watch the tribute on TV. The arena became a hub of mourning and celebration of Bryant’s life almost immediately after his death on Sunday as fans flocked to pay tribute.

The big screens at the adjacent entertainment complex L.A. Live will not be showing the game or the tribute, according to a Staples Center statement.

“If you do not have a ticket tonight for the Lakers game, do not come down to L.A. Live,” Staples Center president Lee Zeidman said, per ESPN. “Stay home with your loved ones. It’s going to be a tremendous emotional tribute to Kobe, Gianna and the seven others and you don’t want to miss it. We’re not showing it on any LED screens here in downtown Los Angeles.”

Zeidman estimates that hundreds of thousands of fans have visited Staples Center since Bryant’s death to pay tribute and leave mementos such as letters, stuffed animals and toys. He said that Staples Center will box up the items and deliver them to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, and his three surviving daughters.

Watch LeBron James’ moving speech before Lakers-Blazers game

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

“The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. When we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.

…. I want to continue along with my teammates and continue his legacy, not only for this year, for as long as we can play this game of basketball that we love, because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.”

The Lakers played a emotional tribute video to Bryant during the pregame ceremonies.

See Usher’s incredible performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ & Boyz II Men sing national anthem before Lakers-Blazers game

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Lakers celebrated the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant on Friday night before their first game since the tragic accident that claimed nine lives last weekend. The team arranged a special musical performance during a tribute video on the scoreboard, and LeBron James delivered a moving speech prior to tipoff. Usher opened the ceremonies with an unforgettable performance of “Amazing Grace.”

See LeBron James’ new Black Mamba tattoo in honor of Kobe Bryant

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

NBA players across the league have been paying tribute to Kobe Bryant and Bryant’s family this week after the horrible tragedy that claimed nine lives last weekend. Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis revealed on social media that they were both getting tattoos in honor of Bryant, and James showed off his new ink on Friday.

Before taking the floor at Staples Center for the Lakers’ first game since Bryant’s passing, James shared a photo of his new tattoo on Instagram. The tattoo, an illustration of a black mamba, features Bryant’s two numbers with the Lakers, and the words “Mamba 4 Life.”

The Lakers are paying tribute to Bryant for the rest of the season with a patch on their jersey, and the team also added Bryant’s numbers and initials to the floor design.

Damian Lillard drops 48 to lead Portland past Lakers in emotional night at Staples Center

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

Basketball wasn’t the primary focus at the Staples Center on Friday night.

In the Los Angeles Lakers’ first game back after the death of Kobe Bryant — who was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Southern California — how could it be? 

Yet after a long, emotional, tear-filled tribute, a basketball game had to be played.

And Damian Lillard, once again, showed up.

Lillard dropped 48 points and used a massive third-quarter showing to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Lakers 127-119, marking their third win in four games.

“It was hard. I think everybody had a lot of emotions coming in, and then the videos, the music, it was just one of those moments,” Lillard said on ESPN after the win. “One of our legends, icons of the world, not just our game, passing away, really tough night. I think the game started off slow because of that. It’s hard to be excited about the game when you have this type of situation.”

Lillard’s huge third quarter

Lillard has been on an impressive hot streak over the past few weeks.

The Trail Blazers star had averaged more than 48 points per game in their last four contests headed into Friday night, and was fresh off his first career triple-double. Nobody in the league seems to have an answer for him.

That didn’t change at the Staples Center, either.

Lillard, who put up 19 in a very tight first half, dropped 23 points in the third quarter alone — and shot an outstanding 6-of-7 from the 3-point line. He was simply unstoppable.

Yet even with his offensive outburst, the Trail Blazers couldn’t separate from the Lakers and entered the fourth quarter up just seven points. 

“Kobe!” chant, rally comes up short

The Trail Blazers didn’t let up in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, quickly pushing their lead to 12 — the largest of the night.

That’s when fans at the Staples Center played their part.

A monstrous “Kobe!” chant suddenly rang out, sparking a quick 9-0 Lakers run — which was capped by a deep 3-pointer from LeBron James — to bring them right back within three points.

The chant rang out again at the two-minute mark, too, as Lakers fans were trying to will their team to a win.

It just wasn’t enough.

The Trail Blazers surged ahead in the final minutes while fending off a late Lakers push to secure the eight-point win.

Lillard finished the night with a near-triple-double with 48 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. He has now hit 40 3-pointers in his last five games, too, setting a new NBA record.

Hassan Whiteside added 30 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, and CJ McCollum finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 37 points, 18 of which came in the first quarter, and 15 rebounds. James finished with a near-triple-double of his own, finishing with 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

While it wasn’t easy by any means, Lillard said the he felt the best way to honor Bryant was to “come out here and play our hearts out.”

Damian Lillard: Nobody won tonight

“The one thing that we know for sure that we had in common with Kobe is the love of this game,” Lillard said on ESPN. “And we here, so we might as well come out and honor him in that way, and I thought we did that.”

How Kobe Bryant’s sudden death is first of its kind in a wireless world

Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS

Most of us with an early love of sport were drawn to a particular athlete who touched us and became our first favorite. For me, that was Roberto Clemente.

Baseball was my first sports passion, inherited from my mother, who told stories of her youth in Louisiana, where several relatives were good enough to play in the Negro Leagues — the only one available to them — and make a buck while entertaining locals.

Growing up in Oakland, baseball meant choosing between the Giants and the A’s. I liked both, really, with a slight edge to the A’s. No one on either team captured my attention as Clemente did, even though he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2,500 miles away.

He captured my attention with his style and performance, and he maintained it with his intensity, which burned through the TV screen. He was fierce and clutch. Playing the game as if obsessed with getting all he could from it before it was taken away, he left no room to question how much it meant to him.

I pleaded for and received a Clemente bat, with the distinctive thick handle, and tried imitating his violent swing. I wanted a Clemente glove, which I did not get. Through it all, I read every page of every newspaper article or book that I could find. I still remember one sportswriter’s description of Clemente’s skin as “so tight it barely fits.”

So, when the news came on Dec. 31, 1972 that Clemente had been on a plane that dived into the Atlantic Ocean and was lost at sea, my naïve mind somehow imagined he could survive. That he would swim ashore. Not until a few days later, when reality set in, did I weep, along with all of baseball.

I later learned a few things. One, that Puerto Rico, as a nation, went from frantic to distraught. That day after day, for weeks, people would line up along shore to watch scuba divers scour the ocean. That one of Clemente’s teammates, catcher Manny Sanguillen was so hysterical that for three days he insisted on joining recovery efforts that never recovered Clemente’s remains.

I also learned that Clemente had, over a period of years, told numerous people he would die young. He was 38.

There was Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady on Monday, trying and failing to suppress his sobbing, saying Kobe Bryant had talked of dying young. He wanted to be immortalized.

Kobe was 41.

Died in an air disaster.

Was there ever any room to wonder how much competing meant to Kobe?

But 47 years later, the world is much different. Technology has made it a much closer place. Whereas Clemente’s sudden death hit specific areas exceedingly hard, Kobe’s death is the first of a superstar athlete dying, while still vibrant, in our wireless world.

It is that component that makes the sadness so massive. It is Day 4 and we still are reeling. All of us, to varying degrees. Businesses unaffiliated with sports are sending emails to employees notifying them of Kobe Remembrance days.

Have we ever seen so many men, from so many walks of life, shedding tears? Droplets streaming down the face of 7-foot-1, 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe’s teammate with the Lakers for eight seasons. Jerry West, a certified legend and the man who ensured Kobe would be a Laker, blubbering “I don’t know if I can get over this.”

Players, coaches and fans wiping tears, a lump in every throat. Every pocket of the planet is shaken, every continent grieving. Never have so many sneakers been scribbled on, so many No. 8s and No. 24s gracing jerseys across so many sports. So many moments of silence in so many gyms. Kobe jerseys are being worn in China, in Europe, in Brazil, in Canada, even in Boston and Sacramento. Probably in Russia and certainly in Italy.

Nike, the largest athletic wear company on earth, has been raided of its Kobe apparel. All out. Orders must wait.

Kobe was known to billions. And the first favorite for millions.

The games go on, as Kobe would have demanded. The Warriors and 76ers played Tuesday night in Philadelphia, a few miles from where he was born.

Joel Embiid, who normally wears No. 21, asked permission to wear No. 24, which is retired as the number worn by Sixers legend Bobby Jones. Jones gave his OK. Embiid, who had not played in three weeks, scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Those numbers. Again.

“That was cool,” Embiid told reporters in Philadelphia. “I didn’t know it was actually 24 points as I shot that fadeaway. That was what he was about. I actually yelled, ‘Kobe!’ A lot of us, since I started playing basketball, that’s how we’ve always done it. You shoot something in the trash and you just go ‘Kobe!’ so that was cool.”

The shock is fading ever so slightly, giving way to heartfelt remembrances and testimonials, a futile effort to breathe life into a perished legend.

“A few days out, we’re able to reflect a little bit and think about Kobe’s career and his life,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“The reality that Kobe has passed gets a little bit more, for me, real,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “It’s final and the impact that he has had on our game … really, it’s been interesting for me to see the connection that the basketball fraternity has, in an incredibly sad way, been forced to make. Everybody reaches out and there is a connection that you feel as a basketball world.

“It’s deeper than the NBA.”

Thousands continue to wander, at all hours, the area of downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center. They’re bringing flowers. They’re writing messages. They’re hugging. They’re crying. They’re staring at images of Kobe.

Los Angeles and the world in January 2020 are aching, just as my little corner of Oakland, along with all of Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico, were in January 1973.

Warriors’ Steve Kerr shares one amazingly hilarious memory of Kobe Bryant that stands out

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS

Warriors coach Steve Kerr played and coached against Kobe Bryant.

He also broadcasted a ton of his games.

So is there one specific memory or moment or image of the late NBA legend that stands out the most?

“I’ve been asked a few times the last couple of days what’s my memory of Kobe and it’s similar to saying, ‘What’s your memory of Michael?’ And the point with those guys is that there is no one memory because they were putting on a show every single night,” Kerr recently explained to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on the “SVPod” podcast. “It’s what made them special.

“But I do have a memory of Kobe in the (2010) West finals when I was the general manager in Phoenix. Lakers were up (three-games-to-two) and we came back to Phoenix for Game 6. We had a lead most of the game, and Kobe hit a series of impossible shots right in front of the Phoenix bench that completely turned the game.

“And on a couple of them, Kobe literally fell back into the bench and he slapped (Suns coach) Alvin Gentry’s behind twice. And Alvin just shook his head. All you could do is marvel and smile. Anybody else, Alvin would have been ready to fight. But at that point, you just tip your cap. That game always stands out.”

Kobe finished that game with 37 points, and Kerr wasn’t lying about the five-time NBA champion slapping Gentry:

He averaged 33.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds that series against Phoenix while shooting 52 percent overall and 43.2 percent from deep.

Just incredible.

Kawhi Leonard uncertain on future helicopter use after Kobe Bryant crash

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

Kawhi Leonard had nothing but good things to say about the helicopter pilot who was flying Kobe Bryant and seven others on Sunday morning when it crashed just outside of Los Angeles.

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was also Leonard’s personal pilot.

“Flown with him a lot. Great guy, super nice. He was one of their best pilots,” Leonard said Wednesday, via Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “That’s a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city.

“It’s just surreal still for me. He’ll drop me off and say he’s about to go pick up Kobe … He’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off, he said, ‘Hello,’’ and vice versa. It’s just a crazy interaction. He’s a good dude. I’m sorry for everybody.”

Zobayan — an experienced pilot and certified flight instructor with more than 8,000 hours of flight time under his belt — was among those killed in the tragic accident that killed Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash, though heavy fog and low visibility in the area are believed to be the major factors.

Leonard, after deciding to join the Los Angeles Clippers last summer and return to his hometown, talked with Bryant about traveling around Southern California and his helicopter use. Bryant told him he had been flying around the city “for about 17 years or so.”

While Leonard does have a home near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, he frequently travels down to San Diego to stay at his property there — and used a helicopter to do so.

In the wake of the tragedy, however, Leonard isn’t sure if he’ll continue flying back and forth.

“I mean, the things that you hear, you don’t know what’s real yet,” Leonard said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t really speak on it. I don’t know. I don’t know yet. It’s a lot of thoughts in my head.”

Vanessa Bryant: ‘There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now’

ESPN

In her first public comments since the death of husband Kobe and daughter Gianna on Sunday, Vanessa Bryant thanked the millions of fans who have shown support during what she called a “horrific” time.

She also announced the formation of a fund to help support the other families that were affected by the crash.

“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now,” Bryant wrote in an Instagram post accompanied by a picture of the entire family. “I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant 🦋 (@vanessabryant) on

Kobe and Gianna, 13, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. They were among nine victims in the crash, which remains under investigation.

Kobe and Vanessa married in 2001, and they had four daughters together. Their oldest, Natalia, is 17, and their youngest, Capri, is 7 months old. They also have a 3-year-old, Bianka.

“I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them,” Bryant said as part of the post. “But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.”

Shaqille O’Neal and Jerry West share emotional memories and feelings about Kobe Bryant

Shaq revealed that the last time he spoke to Bryant was right before his legendary, 60-point final game.

“The last time I talked to him was when I asked him to get 50 and he got 60. That’s the last time I spoke to him,” he said.

He lamented that he didn’t just pick up the phone more often.

“I wish I could say one last thing to the people that we lost,” Shaq said. “Because once you’re gone, you’re gone forever – and so we should never take stuff like that for granted…”

“Honestly, I felt like his father for two years… I don’t know if I can get over this — I really don’t…” — Jerry West