Kobe Bryant said during a December 2018 interview that he started using helicopters to fly between his home in Orange County and Los Angeles during his playing career because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Bryant told fellow sports megastar Alex Rodriguez and Barstool Sports’ “Big Cat” that he missed one of his daughter’s school events because he was stuck in traffic and decided he needed a way to get around faster. The interview was part of A-Rod’s “The Corp” podcast.
The 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed on Sunday, January 26, 2020, while flying from Orange County to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy for a basketball game Gianna was playing in. The crash also killed eight other people, including the pilot, two of Gianna’s teammates, three members of her teammates’ families and one of her coaches. The cause of the crash is being investigated by the FAA and NTSB.
Kobe Bryant Told A-Rod & Big Cat He Had to Figure Out a Way to Still Train & Focus, While Not Missing Out on Family Time
Kobe Bryant told A-Rod and Big Cat on Barstool Sports’ “The Corp” podcast that he started using helicopters toward the end of his playing career. Bryant would charter flights from his home in Newport Beach to Los Angeles.
“I’d always get to practice really early. My routine is always the same. I’d wake up 4 in the morning and I’d lift weights really early, 5 in the morning. I’d get home at about 6:30 in time to wake up the kids for school. And then I’d take the kids to school every morning. And then after I take the kids to school I’d drive to practice,” Bryant said. “And this was before people really started moving down south, so I could get to LA in 30 to 40 minutes.” Bryant said he was able to stay late after practice, get treatment done and take extra shots, and drive back in time to “pick the kids up from school, afterschool activities, all that fun stuff, even on weekends.”
But Bryant said things started to change. “Traffic started getting really, really bad,” Bryant said during the 2018 interview. “I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing a school play. This thing just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way that I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. So that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started.”
The full interview with Bryant, A-Rod and Big Cat can be watched below:
The ‘Mamba Chopper’ Became ‘Part of Bryant’s Legend’
During his playing career, Bryant would charter a helicopter that had a black wrap around it with the Nike logo and his personal “Black Mamba” logo on it. According to The Washington Post, Bryant called the helicopter the “Mamba Chopper.” The Post wrote in 2018, “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. 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.”
In 2010, GQ’s J.R. Moehringer wrote:
He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game. It’s a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance. 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. 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.
According to TMZ, Bryant used the helicopter for a Valentine’s Day getaway with his wife, Vanessa Bryant, to get teammate Steve Blake to a last-minute doctor’s appointment and to take his teammates to victory parades and celebratory outings in Las Vegas.
Kurt Deetz, who piloted the helicopter for Bryant from 2014 to 2016, told The Los Angeles Times after the crash, “It was always, ‘Hey,’ thumbs up, or sometimes nothing at all. He kept to himself. He would get in, get out, and that was it. There was no hugging, no backslapping — he was very professional.”
The Sikorsky Helicopter Kobe Bryant Used Was Known to Be Safe & Was Like a Limousine, One of His Former Pilots Said
Bryant would fly in a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, the same type that he was in with his family and friends when they crashed on Sunday. The helicopter is owned by Island Express Helicopters.
Deetz, a former Island Express pilot who flew Bryant at times between 2014 to 2016, told The Los Angeles Times the Sikorsky helicopter was “like a Cadillac, a limousine, it’s limo-esque,” saying it’s comfortable and safe. Deetz told the newspaper the specific S-76B that crashed was in “fantastic” condition and said Island Express followed a “very good maintenance program.”