Over a year ago, the world lost a basketball legend. And now ahead Kobe Bryant's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Michael Jordan has shared their last text messages...
Kobe Bryant will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
With Jordan taking the lead at the ceremony.
Now, January 26th, 2020, was a dark day for the world.
NBA great, Kobe Bryant, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, were killed when their helicopter crashed into a California hillside.
It had started as a routine trip to one of Gianna's basketball games.
Kobe, forty-one, and his daughter, who was herself a budding basketball player, were accompanied in the private helicopter by Orange Coast College baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, their teenage daughter, Alyssa, Sarah Chester, and her daughter, Payton; and Christina Mauser, an assistant coach.
Many believed that Gianna was set to follow in her father's footsteps.
From childhood, she would participate in the team warm-ups, and, going by her skill displayed on the court, she was set to have an illustrious basketball career ahead of her.
Their flight took off in clear skies in Orange County...
But it eventually encountered fog so thick that it nearly blinded drivers on the freeway. Visibility was so poor, in fact, that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its fleet of helicopters.
In his last message before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer...
And witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog seconds before it crashed.
It has since emerged that the helicopter fell at a rate of about twenty-three-miles per hour...
And slammed into the hill in a "high-energy impact crash," according to the N.T.S.B.
Nobody onboard survived.
Footage from the aftermath of the crash was quick to circulate online...
.@LACOFD helicopter over the scene . As air ops quickly told me it is a fire not sheriffs chopper hovering and now… https://t.co/I5VE1IaTao— Richard Winton (@Richard Winton)1580066118.0
And, even more quickly, the rumors regarding Kobe and Gianna started to emerge.
It was truly harrowing...
Not only because Kobe opted for helicopters as his most regular use of transport, but that the very aircraft that had crashed had actually transported him to his last ever Lakers game in 2016.
The tributes were quick to flood in from all over the globe...
But, of course, all focus was quickly directed to Kobe's surviving wife and daughters.
He left behind his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their 3 remaining daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
In the aftermath of the accident, Vanessa wrote on Instagram:
"I've been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can't process both at the same time. It's like I'm trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong."
And, nearly a month on from the tragedy, Vanessa gave her first public speech.
Friends, family, former teammates, and legions of fans packed the Staples Center as Vanessa said goodbye to her husband and daughter.
"Babe, you take care of our Gigi - I got Nani, BB, and Coco. We're still the best team."
Fellow Lakers star and close friend of Kobe's, Michael Jordan, also spoke at the memorial...
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died." Michael Jordan, a close friend of Kobe Bryant, wiped tears away as he… https://t.co/FOwTcAWc8o— ABC News (@ABC News)1582612260.0
And, through tears, said:
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could."
Well, over a year has now passed since the devastating event...
And the loss is certainly no easier.
The past twelve months have been undeniably difficult for Kobe's surviving family...
And, on Kobe's first birthday since his death, Vanessa wrote a heartfelt message on Instagram that only highlighted her pain further:
"To my baby. Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh. I miss teasing you, making you laugh, and bursting your bubble. I miss you sitting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your tenderness and patience all the time."
Her message continued:
"I picture your smile and wide big welcoming hugs daily. God, I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I've been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughter's days shine a little brighter. I'm not the strong one, they are."
And, on the anniversary of the deaths of her husband and daughter, she wrote this:
"I will never understand why/how this tragedy could've happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn't seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!"
Kobe Bryant will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 15th...
And the man presenting him will be none other than his hero... Michael Jordan.
Earlier this year, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced plans for the event at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut...
Kobe along with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the class of 2020, sadly later than expected due to Covid.
The HOF says members of the 2020 class were asked "to select previous inductees to accompany and present them to their peers" during the ceremony.
That decision was given to Kobe's family, and they chose MJ.
This is incredibly poignant, as everyone knows Kobe modeled his entire career after Jordan, and both shared a bond over the sport.
In an interview with ESPN, Jordan revealed that Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, asked him to take the lead.
"I told her, 'Look, I know this is a tough time. I'm always here if you need me.' She answered back, 'I would love it if you stood up for Kobe at the Hall of Fame,'" he said.
"It's going to be a great honor, to be honest. It's like standing up for a family member."
"[Bryant] paid me the highest respect by trying to emulate certain things I did. And I can only repay that by showing my support and admiration for a guy who I felt was one of the greatest to ever play the game."
Speaking with ESPN Jordan also revealed his final text message exchange with Bryant.
And it has people feeling very emotional...
Still doesn’t feel real. RIP.— Bronson (@simplebronson) May 11, 2021
😢— Carlos Alvarado (@CoachAlvarado) May 11, 2021
god damn this shit makes me sad— YRG NAV KD (@demontimedurant) May 11, 2021
In early December 2019, just a month before Bryant's tragic accident, he text Jordan saying: "This tequila is awesome."
A reference to Jordan's brand of tequila, Cincoro.
Jordan thanked Bryant before they moved on to talk about their families.
"Yes, sir. Family good?" Bryant asked.
"All good. Yours?" Jordan replied.
"All good," Bryant said.
The subject then changed with Jordan asking Bryant about his coaching of his then thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her basketball team.
"Happy holidays. and hope to catch up soon. Coach Kobe??!" Jordan wrote, adding a laughing emoji.
"Ah, back at you, man. Hey, coach, I'm sitting on the bench right now, and we're blowing this team out. 45-8," Bryant replied.
Rest in Peace, Kobe.