Kobe & Gigi Bryant’s Helicopter Was Going to Mamba Academy Practice

Kobe and Gianna Bryant

Getty Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, 2020. TMZ first reported that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant was also on-board the helicopter, and died in the accident.

A representative for Kobe told TMZ Sports that Kobe and Gianna’s helicopter was on its way to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice when the crash occurred in Calabasas, California. Gianna was the second oldest of Kobe and his wife Vanessa’s four daughters.

Bryant Launched Mamba Academy for Promising Young Athletes in 2018

In December 2018, Bryant announced his plan to open Mamba Academy to train young athletes as a multisport center. On Mamba Sports Academy’s website, it says that the academy “enlists diverse experts to support youth, amateur, and elite athletes with a Full-Circle training approach including body, performance, and mind training.”

On Instagram, Bryant spread the news about Mamba Academy with his millions of followers, writing “Excited to bring a holistic training approach to young athletes and help them reach their full potential. Let’s do this!”

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was on a women’s basketball team at the academy, and he often posted photos on Instagram of Gigi wearing the “Mamba” basketball uniform.

A May 2020 tweet from the Mamba Sports Academy’s Twitter account shared a highlight reel of Gianna’s basketball talent. The video was accompanied by a quote attributed to Gianna: “I own it, my name. You know the name.”

Before Gigi started playing for Mamba Academy, Bryant was already invested in her basketball training as her middle school team’s coach. According to Entertainment Tonight, when asked about the experience coaching middle school basketball following his NBA career, Bryant said “It’s been fun! We’ve been working together for a year and a half and they’ve improved tremendously in that time. I’ve got a group of great parents, a group of really, really intelligent, hardworking girls, and — they’re all seventh graders, they’re all 12 years old — but they’ve been playing so well! I play ’em up now. They’ve been playing eighth and ninth grade, they’ve been winning tournaments. But the most important thing is they keep improving, keep getting better and they love doing it. They love being around each other.”

Of his daughter’s coachability, specifically, he added “Gianna’s pretty easy to coach. We haven’t had any issues of dad-daughter sort of thing. She’s very competitive and she’s a hard worker, so there haven’t been any issues with that.”

Kobe Said Gianna Planned to Carry on His Basketball Legacy

As news of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s death spread, a video clip of Kobe talking about his daughter with Jimmy Kimmel. When Kimmel asked “Do you think your daughter might want to play in the WNBA,” Bryant responded “She does for sure – this kid, man… The best thing that happens is, when we go out and fans come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me. They’ll be like ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy. You gotta have somebody to carry on your tradition, your legacy.’ She’s like ‘I got this. We don’t need no boy for that. I got this.’ And I’m like ‘Yes, that’s right. You do. You got this.'”

On January 14, less than two weeks before their untimely death, Bryant shared a video of his 13-year-old daughter playing basketball. In the caption, the proud father wrote “Gigi getting better every day #teammamba #mambacita #fade.” Kobe Bryant, whose NBA nickname was “Mamba,” affectionately called Gigi “Mambacita.”

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