Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Kobe Bryant wasn’t in the bubble with the Los Angeles Lakers last fall when they won the NBA championship. He wasn’t at the All-Star weekend in Chicago where half the players wore his number on their uniforms, the other half wearing his daughter’s jersey number. He wasn’t there to hear the Basketball Hall of Fame announced that his career was worthy of enshrinement.

Yet his presence was so clearly felt in each of those moments.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the other seven people who climbed aboard that helicopter on a Sunday morning in Southern California have been gone for exactly one year now — Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

Tears have been shed. Stories have been told. Tributes have been made.

And if there was any doubt about what kind of legacy Bryant — a five-time NBA champion, still the No. 4 scorer in NBA history, a 20-year veteran of the league — left behind, it has been erased now. He still resonates, maybe more than ever.

“God rest his soul, God rest the soul of Gigi and the seven others that perished,” said Miami assistant coach and former NBA player Caron Butler, who was close with Bryant for years. “The legacy that he left, man, he did it all. He inspired. When you think about being better, embracing the storm, having the right mentality and perspective about life and always trying to be better, he embodied it all and that’s why his legacy will live forever.”

Bryant is gone, but that doesn’t mean Butler is wavering on a promise he made. Butler famously had a longtime affinity for Mountain Dew, even drinking it during games when others thought he was having Gatorade. When Butler played for the Lakers, Bryant strongly urged him to kick the habit.

Butler was taping an ad last year for Mountain Dew. He took a sip for the cameras. He then spit the drink out.

“Out of respect to my brother,” Butler said.

Butler and Bryant were brothers in the teammate sense. Tony Altobelli lost his actual brother, John Altobelli, in the crash. Alyssa Altobelli was a teammate of Gianna Bryant she was on the helicopter along with John, her father, and mother Keri.

John Altobelli was the baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Southern California. Tony Altobelli is the sports information director at that school sports information directors are tasked with promoting their teams, in good times and bad, always trying to find a positive way to tell a story. And somehow, even for a story this painful, Tony Altobelli has managed to do that.

His brother died with Kobe Bryant. That’s how the world got to know who his brother was.

“It’s nice to see his memory, and just his way of his life being celebrated by people far beyond our area,” Tony Altobelli said. “It takes a little bit of the sting off what happened. I’ve kind of jokingly said if it had to happen, I’m glad a global figure was with him when it happened because now the whole world knows about my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece. And I think that’s pretty cool.”

Christina Mauser died in the crash as well she was one of the coaches at Bryant’s academy. Tony Altobelli and Mauser’s husband, Matt, have become friends in the last year they didn’t know each other before Jan. 26, 2020. Matt Mauser has organized a concert to honour those who died in the crash and to serve as a benefit for the foundation he started in his wife’s memory it streams Tuesday night.

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, another of the players along with Gianna and Alyssa, also were on board. Also killed was the pilot, Ara Zobayan. The Lakers were in the air when the news broke, flying home from a game in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia. Word spread around the NBA quickly the Golden State Warriors were just starting practice when someone there found out.

“Everything stopped,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The music stopped. The players stopped. Nobody said a word. A lot of guys dropped to the floor and started crying. Nothing happened for 10 minutes. We all just sat there in silence. It was one of the worst moments of all our lives.”

The Lakers are not planning any formal marking of the day, nor is the NBA. It is not a day for celebration. It is a day for remembrance, not that it’s needed.

Bryant’s legacy lives on. He won’t be forgotten. Nor will Jan. 26, 2020.

“I don’t think any of us will ever forget that day,” Kerr said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band had words of praise for the consultation between her people and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on an ongoing highway project. (Black Press file photo)
Collaboration on Shuswap highway project receives national award

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson says expansion will open new economic opportunities for the band

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Chase RCMP have been focusing during February on prohibited drivers and stolen vehicles in the North Shuswap. (File photo)
RCMP crack down on prohibited drivers in North Shuswap

Help from community aids with arrests in Anglemont and Scotch Creek

Work on replacement of the Solsqua-Sicamous bridge is underway. (File Photo)
Solsqua-Sicamous Bridge work on pace for June 2021 completion

Replacement of the 100-year-old span began last August.

Craig Gruden, (Little) Donny Kleinfelder, (Big) Donny Kleinfelder, Dale Kristensen, Dave Schwandt, Alyssa Schwandt, Tristan Schwandt and Angela Kirstein will feature in Backroad Truckers, a Barriere-based History channel series. (CORUS Entertainment photo)
Shuswap auto recycler breaks out of Rust Valley for Backroad Truckers

White Lake’s Dave Schwandt joins Big Donny Kleinfelder on new History Channel series

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here are the stories that made waves in the Okanagan-Shuswap

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

BC Housing has proposed that the emergency winter shelter at Victory Church at 352 Winnipeg Street be extended as a shelter until March 31, 2022. It was originally intended to be open until April 1, 2021. (Jesse Day - Western News)
One more year of ‘temporary’ homeless shelter in Penticton?

BC Housing has applied to extend Victory Church as a shelter for those experiencing homelessness

Parkview Elementary Kindergarten student Siddhalee Martselos was among many students and staff at the school participating in the Pink Shirt Day anti-bullying event on Feb. 24. (Parkview Elementary/Facebook)
In Photos: Parkview Elementary’s many shades of Pink Shirt Day

Many students and staff at the school dressed up for the annual anti-bullying day.

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021
Kamloops-Thompson school district drafts new dress code policy after students sent home

The new policy is being created after a NorKam secondary student was sent home because of what she was wearing

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

Most Read