Retired NBA star and former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26.
“Bryant was among the passengers traveling onboard the helicopter. Nine people died in the crash, including the pilot, said Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County sheriff, during a news conference,” the New York Times reports, adding that “authorities declined to identify the victims pending identification by the coroner and notification of their family members.”
TMZ first broke the news of the star’s tragic death, which has prompted a wave of national mourning, with everyone from former president Barack Obama to music star Taylor Swift sending their condolences online.
While Bryant’s impact was global, he also had a special impact on Maywood, home to an assortment of NBA players who teamed up with, and competed against, him.
In fact, Kobe Bryant has a connection to all four NBA Champions produced by Proviso East’s rich basketball program. Proviso East Pirate and Maywood native Jim Brewer won an NBA title with Bryant’s Lakers franchise in 1982.
In 2008, Doc Rivers coached the Boston Celtics to a title after beating Bryant’s Lakers four games to two in that year’s NBA Finals, a feat that prompted a major parade through the streets of Maywood (featuring Rivers holding the NBA title trophy).
Bryant got his comeuppance when the Lakers beat Rivers’ Celtics in seven games in the 2010 NBA Finals. Maywood native and Proviso East Pirate Shannon Brown, a close friend of Bryant’s, was a member of that championship Lakers team. Bryant once described Brown as his “little brother.”
Rivers told a reporter in 2016 that he always had “mad respect” for his longtime rival.
“My job was to try and stop him or frustrate him when we play him, and his job was to try and inflict pain,” Rivers said. “It is the type of relationship we have.”
Finally, Bryant prevailed over retired NBA star and Proviso East Pirate Michael Finley in the final round of the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Finley won an NBA title in 2007, with the San Antonio Spurs.
On Sunday, after news broke of Bryant’s untimely death, Rivers struggled to describe his shock and sadness.
“We’re all Lakers today,” said the forever Pirate.