NBA superstar and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant was among nine passengers, including his daughter Gianna, who died tragically in a helicopter accident on Sunday, January 26.
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for twenty years, before retiring in 2016. Among his many athletic achievements, Bryant was the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points, the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history, and was selected to start the annual NBA All-Star game for a record 18 consecutive appearances—where he won a record-tying four MVP awards. Additionally, he won two Gold Medals as part of the United States Olympic team.
After retiring from the NBA, Bryant made a name for himself off the court as a supporter of the visual arts. He founded the multimedia production company Granity Studios, which partners with award-winning writers, producers, and illustrators to develop original content that would marry sports concepts with fantasy and storytelling elements.
Bryant wrote, produced, and hosted one of Granity’s first projects, Detail, a series for ESPN+ that aims to teach basketball by deconstructing in detail individual NBA playoff performances.
In 2018, Bryant won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball, which he co-produced through Granity Studios. The animated short, directed by Glen Keane and scored by John Williams, visualizes the letter Bryant wrote announcing his retirement from the NBA. The film’s win made Bryant the first African American to win an Academy Award in that category and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Oscar in any category.
Bryant’s cross-cultural contributions have left the sports community, arts community, the city of Los Angeles, and Bryant’s friends and family deep in shock and mourning. Just hours after the accident, the Grammy Awards were presented live, where numerous presenters, performers, and award winners—including Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Alicia Keys—paid respects to the star and his family.
Shaquille O’Neal, a New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum who played with Bryant on the Lakers and earned three consecutive NBA championships alongside him, was one of the countless mourners praising the life of Kobe Bryant on social media.
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man,” O’Neal wrote in one of several posts remembering his friend. “That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.”
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There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my neice Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW !
New York Film Academy is deeply saddened by the loss of NBA legend and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and all those lost in Sunday’s crash. Rest in Peace, Black Mamba.