It feels like the entire nation is mourning Kobe Bryant, the Philly native and basketball great who died Sunday at 41 in a helicopter crash in California.
The helicopter went down near Calabasas, a city in Los Angeles County just west of the San Fernando Valley, killing Bryant and others on board — including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.
A graduate of Lower Merion High who was recruited directly from that Ardmore school to the NBA, where he had a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant always kept Philadelphia close to his heart and was a lifelong Eagles fan.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxGOhsBeUVk” /]
Father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant was a basketball player too, who played for the Sixers before moving the family briefly from Philly to Italy so he could play in the overseas league. The Bryants returned in time for young prodigy Kobe to stun local audiences at Lower Merion. Upon graduation, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft.
Bryant’s ascent to legendary status was challenged in 2003, when a woman accused him of rape. The case was settled out of court.
In addition to basketball, Bryant had a mind for business. He was an early investor in sports drink BodyArmour, and wrote and co-directed at least four of the brand’s ads. He had also cofounded an investment firm, and worked hard to promote women’s basketball. Before her untimely death, his daughter, known as “Gigi,” was a rising baller herself, who had rekindled her dad’s love of the game.
An 18-time NBA All-Star, Bryant was the third-leading all-time scorer in league history when he retired in 2016.
Ironically, that record was broken the night before his death — in Philadelphia — when LeBron James inched past him during a nationally-televised Lakers-Sixers matchup. Kobe even tweeted about it, in gracious form.
Here’s how some of Philly’s best-known athletes and sports celebs are reacting to the news.
Kobe gets Philly love from sports stars, musicians, elected officials
Bryant was the reason Sixers star Joel Embiid started playing ball in the first place, Embiid said.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz offered prayers for Kobe’s family, saying that the legend was “gone too soon.”
“I’ve always wanted to be like you,” said Flyers great Claude Giroux to the late hero, adding, “You represent everything that is great about sports.”
The Sixers’ Ben Simmons said Kobe would continue to be an inspiration, to him and the world.
Sixer Josh Richardson noted that “the world is sick” with grief over the loss.
Sixer Tobias Harris expressed the disbelief that many others on the team also felt.
Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright called Bryant a “legendary ambassador” for the sport.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said he couldn’t begin to wrap his mind around “the loss of another King.”
“There will never be another BLACC MAMBA,” tweeted Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Meek Mill was in disbelief.
Rapper Tierra Whack offered sage advice: don’t let beefs linger, because you never know when one of your friends or loved ones is going to die.
Roots frontman Questlove echoed the sentiment, saying, “Let em know NOW.”
A heartbroken Eve offered her condolences to Bryant’s family.
Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “heartbroken” and praying for the Bryant family.
Philly Congressman Dwight Evans called the news tragic, and sent his sympathies.
Former Philly Mayor Michael Nutter called Bryant “an incredible representative” of the city and region.
Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro called out Bryant’s leadership.