Whether a basketball fan or not, there is hardly anyone on the planet that doesn’t know the name Kobe Bryant as synonymous with the burning desire for excellence in sports.
Bryant’s flame was extinguished on Sunday. He and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, along with three other individuals, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., according to ESPN. Bryant was 41 years old. He is survived by his wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia, Bianca, and newborn daughter Capri.
Known as one of the greatest players in NBA history, Bryant spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning numerous championships and breaking several NBA records.
He was also a martial artist who trained under Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. Though he never fought, Bryant was a prolific fight fan, having found his love for mixed martial arts in the late 2000s.
“Scorecards can’t hide a guy getting punched in the face. You can see all the art that takes place in MMA, so I gravitated towards that,” Bryant told MMAWeekly.com during a promotional press conference that partnered his Body Armor brand with the UFC in 2017.
“I brought my wife to several fights and she enjoyed it. There was more so the artistry that takes place, snap, snap, because you’re making decisions in really quick moments that could either win you the fight or cost you the fight, but understanding the dance that takes place between that. What is the science between that, making these decisions (is what) really pulled me in. It was probably in about 2008.”
The helicopter in the crash was Bryant’s private aircraft. He had been using the helicopter for several years as a common means of transportation. He and his daughter were reportedly en route to a basketball game at the time of the crash.
Kobe Bryant’s Journey to MMA
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UFC stars, others express sympathies on Kobe Bryant’s death
— Dana White (@danawhite) January 26, 2020
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) January 26, 2020
— Big John McCarthy (@JohnMcCarthyMMA) January 26, 2020
Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete. pic.twitter.com/9EZuwk8wrV
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) January 26, 2020
— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) January 26, 2020
Terribly sad ?
RIP to a legend who meant so much to so many. You will be remembered forever as the champion you are.? pic.twitter.com/xRVuSf157X
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) January 26, 2020
RIP Mamba ? https://t.co/pmHZIhVAPi
— Curtis Blaydes (@RazorBlaydes265) January 26, 2020
No way. So sad ?? https://t.co/xZNIXCg4c1
— Frankie Edgar (@FrankieEdgar) January 26, 2020
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
Thankyou for inspiring us and teaching the mindset on how to be great, still working hard and practicing your talk about being “first one in the gym and last one out “ ❤️ Thankyou for being such a inspiration!
RestEasy?GOAT @kobebryant @ufc pic.twitter.com/sBzpvE0icw
— Charles Rosa (@CharlesRosaMMA) January 27, 2020
— Grand Slam Champ Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) January 27, 2020