Kobe Bryant

After 20 NBA Seasons, Kobe Bryant Was Building a Legacy by Sharing His Passion for Basketball

After he retired in 2016, Kobe Bryant continued to share his passion for basketball with younger generations of players, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna

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As news of the death of Kobe Bryant spread, fans gathered at the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.

Kobe Bryant's accomplishments on the basketball court in his 20 years as a Laker are legendary -- an 18-time All-Star, five NBA championships and the Lakers all-time leading scorer.

He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion and finished his career as the league's third-leading scorer.

But at just 41, there is a deeply unsettling feeling that he had so much left to do with his life.

Kobe Bryant talks with girls at the Her Time To Play basketball clinic hosted by JR.NBA and WNBA with on March 28, 2019 at Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, California.

One of the places where Bryant was expanding his legacy in Southern California was the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park. Before a helicopter carrying the Lakers great and his 13-year-old daughter crashed into a hillside on a foggy Sunday northwest of Los Angeles, killing everyone on board, it was on the way to a girls basketball tournament at the multi-purpose sports campus.

"This is the only facility of its kind up here where they have tournaments, where people go and get this kind of performance training," said NBC4 sports anchor Fred Roggin. "It was very unique. Kobe wanted to be a part of this, and he thought it was important to give back. He thought it was important to train young people and give them an opportunity."

Games had already started at the tournament when news of Bryant's death began to shake Southern California. Play stopped as players, coaches and parents took in the magnitude of what had happened just a few miles to the east in Calabasas.

“All of a sudden, it was silent,” Sherri Rosentha, of Newbury Park, told the Ventura County Star. "Then there was screaming and crying. Someone said, ‘Gather here. Let's do a moment of silence and prayer.'"

Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women's sports in recent years, coaching and mentoring basketball players around the world. The academy attracted athletes worldwide, offering an opportunity for high-level training that focused on both physical and mental aspects of competition.

Mourners left flowers, jerseys, stuffed animals, candles and other items outside the facility. Even fans of the opposition had to admire one of the NBA's greatest players and his sometimes overwhelming drive to win.

"I was always mad at him because he'd always beat the team I liked, but that's what made him good," said Rock Demeyer, who showed up at the academy to pay his respects. "It's a big loss. I cried when I heard about it. Kobe was a lot."

Daughter Gianna, better known as Gigi, also had a promising youth career. The two were seen court-side at Lakers games, appearing to share their thoughts on the game they both loved.

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The pylons at LAX are glowing in Lakers colors on a somber morning in Los Angeles Monday Jan. 27, 2020, a day after the death of Kobe Bryant.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: A fans mourns the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
A makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant is pictured after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fan Victor Chavez, 30, of Los Angeles, mourns the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: Flowers and tributes are left at a makeshift memorial for former NBA player Kobe Bryant outside the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans mourn the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: A woman holds a sign to remember retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: A general view outside of the Staples Center where a makeshift memorial for Kobe Bryant has been setup by fans who have gathered to honor the basketball star after news broke of his death on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash earlier today in Calabasas, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: (L-R) Los Angeles Lakers fans Lilian Gamez, Gabriel Gamez and Angelica Rodriguez mourn the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: Former NBA player Kobe Bryant is remembered outside the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
People gather to pay tribute to former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 following his death in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. – Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Chris Delmas / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and recalled how fans would often approach him saying "you gotta have a boy, you gotta someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy."

Gianna took exception: "She's like, 'Oy, I got this,'" Bryant recalled.

One of Bryant's many career highlights was winning three NBA titles in a row alongside Shaquille O'Neal. In a tweet Sunday, O'Neal expressed his sorrow for Bryant's family and recognized that the two had more in common than their accomplishments in the NBA.

"Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man," O'Neal tweeted. "That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah.

"There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant. I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW."

Bryant also had opened a production company shortly after retirement in 2016. He wanted to tell stories about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for "Dear Basketball," an animated short about his passionate relationship with basketball.

In a interview last month with USA Today, the father of four talked about the children's books he worked on with "The Wizenard Series."

"You got to do what you love to do. I love telling stories," he said. "I love inspiring kids or providing them with tools that are going to help them."