The incredible life of Kobe Bryant, the 41-year-old basketball legend who died in a helicopter crash three years ago
NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash three years ago, on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Eight other people died in the crash, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant and his daughter are survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three children: Bianka, Natalia, and Capri.
Kobe Bryant was known for his impressive work ethic and devotion to basketball, but he also found time to enjoy life and pursue ventures off of the court in his retirement.
It has been three years since NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Bryant was among nine people killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, when the helicopter collided with a mountainside.
Bryant was once the highest-paid and most electric player in the NBA.
He was known for his impressive work ethic and lifelong love of basketball, but he also found time to enjoy life and pursue ventures off of the court in his retirement. In addition to collecting beautiful houses and fancy cars, the so-called "Black Mamba" mentored up-and-coming NBA stars, invested in projects in tech, athletics, and entertainment, and even won an Oscar.
Here's a look back at the incredible life of Kobe Bryant.
Tony Manfred, Meredith Cash, and Cork Gaines contributed to this report.
He went to high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but he grew up in Italy. His father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played in the NBA for several years before moving the family to Italy so he could play in the Italian basketball league.
His time in Italy may have influenced Bryant's love for Italian cars. He once walked into a Ferrari dealership and wrote a $329,000 check for a 458 Italia.
Bryant also owned three houses that were estimated to be worth $18.8 million in 2012. All of them are in Orange County, California, a lengthy drive from his former place of work at the Staples Center.
One of those houses sold in 2015 for $6.1 million.
Source: Orange County Register
Bryant had a helicopter that he typically took to home games. He once remarked that it saved him from sitting in traffic and kept him in shape to play.
He was notoriously generous with his helicopter, too. He once let teammate Steve Blake use it to go to a doctor's appointment.
Bryant had a fashion phase before it was cool to be fashionable in the NBA. He appeared in a photoshoot for LA Weekly, and teammate Metta World Peace (known as Ron Artest at the time) said, "He's a star. He's Kobe Bryant. He can do what he wants."
In his younger days, Bryant partied with some of the best and brightest in the league and was friends with numerous celebs.
But at games, he kept it classy.
Bryant is the second-highest-paid NBA player ever, with $323 million in career salary. He trails only Kevin Garnett, but LeBron James is catching up quickly.
Read more: The 25 highest-paid NBA players of all time
Bryant was known for being highly competitive. While playing on Team USA during the 2012 Olympics, he challenged Kyrie Irving to a $50,000 game of one-on-one.
The game was scheduled for later on that year, but it was never played — Bryant's injuries during his final season of regular NBA play kept the game from ever happening.
SOURCE: Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report
Beyond casual bets, Bryant had the income to take far more serious risks. During his NBA career, Bryant made a whopping $680 million in endorsements with companies like Nike, Lenovo, Hublot, and the publishing company Panini Group.
Bryant started Kobe Inc. in 2013 to take more direct control of his business affairs. The company's first investment was a 10% stake in sports drink BodyArmor.
After Coca-Cola purchased a majority stake in the company, his initial $6 million investment ballooned in value to $200 million.
In 2014, Bryant spent $5.8 million to purchase this building in Newport Beach to house the offices of Kobe Inc.
Kobe Inc. also partnered with Alibaba in 2015 to produce a line of Kobe-branded merchandise, produce the documentary "Muse," and produce and distribute Kobe-branded products in China.
SOURCE: Orange County Register
Shortly after his NBA retirement in 2016, Bryant also started the production company Kobe Studios (since rebranded as Granity Studios) with the goal of "creating new ways to tell stories around sports."
In 2017, Bryant's animated short film "Dear Basketball" won an Academy Award.
But not all of Bryant's entertainment ventures were as successful. Bryant once went all-in on a rap career, even enlisting heavyweight hip-hop video director Hype Williams to direct the video for his first single, "K.O.B.E." The song was not well-received and the video was never released.
SOURCE: LA Times
One good thing came out of that song: It was during the video shoot that he met his wife, Vanessa.
SOURCE: Fox Sports
The couple married in 2001 and had four daughters together.
Bryant's life wasn't without controversy — in July 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a woman in his Colorado hotel room the night before he was slated to have surgery on his right knee.
Source: New York Times
Bryant admitted to having an adulterous sexual encounter with the 19-year-old but claimed he viewed the incident as consensual.
In a stunning apology, Bryant said: "I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
Source: The Nation
Although prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Bryant because his accuser refused to testify, the two sides settled for an undisclosed amount in a civil case that closed in 2005.
Source: New York Times, LA Times
In 2011, Bryant's wife Vanessa filed for divorce — but he and Vanessa eventually reconciled and called off the divorce in 2013.
By the time Bryant was set to retire in 2016, his scandals were treated like a distant memory and the Los Angeles Lakers legend enjoyed a glorious victory lap.
In retirement, Bryant became an adroit businessman and investor. He was known to cold-call business people and entrepreneurs to learn more about them and their secrets to success.
Billionaire investor Chris Sacca became an early mentor to Bryant in investing. "My phone never stops buzzing in the middle of the night. It's Kobe, reading this article, checking out this tweet, following this guy, diving into this Ted Talk, diving into the Y Combinator Demo Day stuff," Sacca said.
Read more: Billionaire investor Chris Sacca told an amazing story about how obsessed Kobe Bryant is with being a successful investor in the startup world
Of course, Kobe didn't let himself stray too far from the world of basketball. He analyzed NBA and WNBA players, teams, and trends in detail on ESPN+.
He also mentored several NBA stars after his own retirement, including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, and Candace Parker.
He put all of his energy into shaping his legacy: "To think of me as a person that's overachieved, that would mean a lot to me," he once said. "That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could."
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