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

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Hazelton school COVID-19 closure extended one week

With spring break on horizon, Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary will be closed to end of March

BC CDC graphic showing weekly numbers of new cases by local health area.
Local health area records 11 new COVID-19 cases from Feb. 21 to 27

The Northwest has become the COVID hotspot in the province

The Smithers recycling depot was destroyed by fire May 9, 2019. (Thom Barker photo)
Curbside recycling pickup returns to Smithers

The Town will start collecting single stream, loose and clean residential recyclables April 12

Adam's Igloo sustained serious damage when the roof collapsed. (Facebook photo)
Roof collapses on Smithers landmark

Cleanup efforts underway at Adams Igloo and Wildlife Museum

Instructor and master artist Dempsey Bob (right) speaks to the crowd at the Terrace Art Gallery about the importance of cultural art on Feb. 7, 2020. Bob is a recipient of a 2021 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts Artistic Achievement Award. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Northwest artist Dempsey Bob wins national art award

Renowned Tahltan-Tlingit master carver one of eight people to receive Governor General’s Arts Award

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Most Read