On the Anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s Death, Fans Remember the Lakers Legend

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

Black Mamba fans in Southern California and around the world are reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s life Jan. 26, the first anniversary of his death, along with the passing of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, in a Calabasas helicopter crash.

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and daughters Natalia, 18; Bianka, 4; and Capri, 1.

One year later, tributes to the Los Angeles Lakers legend sprang up everywhere in the Southland, including murals on buildings and any other imaginable surfaces.

Because his loss hurt so much for Bryant fans, most of them talk first of that tragic day in recollection. Bryant and the others in the helicopter were going from Orange County to the former Lakers’ Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game, with Bryant scheduled to coach his daughter’s team.

“It was beyond shocking,” San Juan Capistrano resident, Steve Sakach, 50, editor of LakersGround.net told The Epoch Times via email. “It’s the kind of tragedy where you know where you were and [it was] a gut punch over and over as you learned about all the others lost.

“As a community we wanted to process it together and grieve together and that helped us cope and push through it. I don’t think you can say get through it yet, because I know a lot of people have not. It’s still very much something that you shake your head at in disbelief just about every day.”

Lakers’ team leader LeBron James was asked about the anniversary after the Lakers’ game on Jan. 23.

“Man, it’s a saying that says, ‘Time heals all,’” James told reporters. “And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is to all of us involved with it, only time [will help]. And it takes time.

“Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone individually is different. Everyone is going to grieve differently. All you can do as a friend or a loved one or anyone in our brotherhood or our familyhood that we have here in the Lakers organization is to put an arm around someone when they need it.’”

Vanessa met Bryant when she was a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. They married on April 18, 2001, at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California. In 2002, the Bryants made Orange County their home. At one time, they lived in the Newport Coast community of Newport Beach.

“It was such a loss for Orange County,” Sakach’s wife, Tiffany, told the Epoch Times. “I felt like they belonged to us.”

In addition to the Bryants, the victims were: John Altobelli, 56, a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, along with his wife, Keri, 46, and their 13-year-old daughter.

Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna’s on Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy youth basketball team; Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna and Alyssa; Christina Mauser, 38, one of Bryant’s assistant coaches on the Mamba Academy team; and Ara Zobayan, 50, the helicopter pilot, City News Service reported.

A meeting to announce the results of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the cause of the crash is scheduled on Feb. 9.

Documents made public last year by the NTSB “lent credence to the growing theory that the pilot may have become disoriented while navigating through the fog while ferrying the passengers from Orange County to Camarillo,” City News Service stated.