Bryant was a legend of the NBA and its highest-earning player. He had an estimated net worth of $770 million, according to Forbes.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Sunday. “He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share with future generations of players.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bryant Was the Highest-Paid Team Sports Player in History & Second-Highest Earning NBA Player
Kobe Bryant was a legend in basketball history, and his tragic death shook many outside of basketball fandom. Bryant was a household name with an NBA paycheck to match his fame. He made Forbes’ list of “Highest Paid Athletes of All Time,” ranking at sixth place. The list was published in 2016, the year of his retirement. He was also the highest paid team-sports player in history.
“Bryant hung up his high tops this year as the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports,” Forbes wrote in 2016. “His Los Angeles Lakers salary was tops in the NBA the final six seasons of his career.”
Although Michael Jordan topped Bryant on the list, earning the No. 1 spot, Jordan earned 93 million in salary in his 19 seasons in the NBA, while his Jordan brand made $2.8 billion in revenue for Nike in the brand’s previous fiscal year alone. The majority of his wealth was accrued through his brand. The original Air Jordans were released in 1985.
Many of those taking other top spots on Forbes’ list were professional golfers. No one in spots two through five played team sports. Golf pros took spots two through four with Tiger Woods earning the second spot, Arnold Palmer earning the third spot and Jack Nicklaus earning the fourth spot. German race car driver Michael Schumaker earned the fifth spot.
Bryant also ranked No. 33 on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 in 2016. He had the highest salary in the NBA for his last six years before retirement. It was his business and investments, though, that earned him his spot on that list.
“Kobe Bryant retired in 2016 as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone,” Forbes wrote. “His career earnings were second to none though. Bryant banked $680 million in salary and endorsements during his two-decade career. It is the most ever for a team athlete during their playing career. Bryant had the highest salary in the NBA for the last six years. The five-time NBA champion still has his endorsement relationships with Nike, Hublot and Panini though he has moved away in recent years from straight endorsement deals in favor of being a business owner. In August he and entrepreneur Jeff Stibel officially set up a $100 million venture-capital fund, Bryant Stibel, to invest in technology, media and data companies. They have already invested in 15 companies together since 2013 including sports media website The Players Tribune, legal-services company Legal Zoom, mobile game designer Scopely, Alibaba Group and others.”
2. Kobe Bryant Did Not Own the Helicopter That Crashed, But Often Flew In It & Called It The “Mamba Chopper”
While some media outlets both before and after the crash reported Kobe Bryant owned the helicopter which crashed, it was actually owned by Island Express Holding Corp., according to FAA records. However, Bryant often used the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter. It was even adorned with the Nike and “Black Mamba” logos when it transported Bryant to and from Los Angeles Lakers games.
Bryant even had a name for the helicopter, calling it the “Mamba Chopper,” according to The Washington Post.
“Years ago, he determined it wasn’t just more convenient to fly from his home 50 miles south of Staples Center for practices and games with the Los Angeles Lakers,” The Washington Post reported in 2018. “It was irresponsible not to, given what hours in gridlock can do to the mind and body of a 6-foot-6 guard. More than trimming his commute to 15 minutes, the helicopter wound up becoming part of Bryant’s legend.”
Bryant described the helicopter as “just another tool for maintaining his body” in a 2010 GQ profile.
“But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes,” GQ reported. “Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.”
Bryant shared the wealth of his helicopter, and once loaned it to a friend to fly to a doctor’s appointment in 2012.
“Kobe Bryant did not speak to reporters after practice Monday because Lakers point guard Steve Blake suffered an abdominal strain and could only get an appointment with an Orange County doctor in the early afternoon, so Bryant flew him there in his helicopter to avoid any irksome traffic on the 405,” Business Insider reported.
3. Kobe Bryant Founded Kobe Inc. in 2014 & Had $200 Billion in Assets
Although Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016, the man known as one of the hardest-working basketball players in history continued putting his best effort into work outside the court. Bryant founded Kobe Inc. in 2014 to better control his brand and investments, and had $200 billion in assets at the time of his death, according to CNN. One of his first investments was into sports drink BODYARMOR.
He founded the business thinking of his future retirement, and had been contemplating the start of the company for a decade when he launched the corporation two years before he retired, according to the Bleacher Report. He launched the business during some forced downtime following an injury to his Achilles tendon.
“I have always had ideas and always had a vision of where I wanted to go going back to 2000, but they are just ideas. Now, once the Achilles injury took place, I’m sitting at home for months not moving, a couple things set in. One is that there is only so many Modern Family episodes a person can watch. And then two, what do I do now?” Bleacher Report quoted Bryant as saying.
He also developed his mission statement: “We want to own and help grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring. If it doesn’t have the limbs of the sports industry, which I understand extremely well, then I probably won’t touch it.”
At the time, BODYARMOR was an emerging brand.
“BodyArmor launched in 2011 and generated $10 million in revenue over the past 12 months,” Forbes reported in 2014. “Sales more than doubled each of the past two years. Each of the six flavors contain coconut water, two and a half times the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks and are low in sodium.
4. Kobe Bryant Collected Cars & Favored Italian-Made Vehicles
Kobe Bryant had a collection of luxury cars, according to Business Insider. Those included a Lamborghini, a Bentley, and a Range Rover.
But Bryant’s favorite cars were made in Italy. TMZ reported that in 2012 he dropped $329,000 on a new Ferrarri. The car was a Ferrari 458 Italia, which he paid in full with a check. His salary that year was $25 million. TMZ compared the purchase for him to an average person buying a Honda.
Bryant’s love of Italian cars may have something to do with his personal history. He was born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia. His dad, Joe Bryant, was a former Philadelphia 76ers player. After his dad retired, they moved to Italy, according to a Bryant biography.
“When Bryant was six, his father left the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball,” the biography said. “Bryant became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak fluent Italian. During summers, he would come back to the United States to play in a basketball summer league.”
5. Kobe Bryant Owned Three Houses in Orange County Worth $18.8 Million
Kobe Bryant owned three houses in Orange County, California, which were worth a combined total of $18.8 million in 2012, according to Business Insider. None of them was located far from the Staples Center, where he played for the Los Angeles Lakers at the time.
He sold a house on the Newport Coast for $6.1 million in 2015, according to the Orange County Register. The selling price beat records, topping the real estate company’s second-highest sale of $4.78 million. He had the house on the market for years, initially listing it for 8.6 million in August 2013. The listed price shortly before a buyer struck a deal was $6.45 million.
The Mediterranean-style home includes a shark tank, a hair salon, a home theater with a lobby and an 850-square-foot gym. The 8,471-square-foot house has four bedrooms and a large office or library. It was built in 1997 on a cul de sac in a guard-gated neighborhood. It also has an “extra-deep” swimming pool, spa, lush gardens, a fire pit and an outdoor kitchen, the Register reported.
Bryant and his wife sold a nearby home in January 2013 for $3.2 million. They also bought a house under construction less than two miles away in 2008 for $9.45 million. That home is in a guard-gated community on a one-acre property with coastline views. The 14,500-square-foot, three-story Santa Barbara-style residence has six bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, along with a private pool, a five-car garage and two-story sport court, according to the Register.