It has been three years since NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Bryant was among nine people killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, when the helicopter collided with a mountainside.
Bryant was once the highest-paid and most electric player in the NBA.
He was known for his impressive work ethic and lifelong love of basketball, but he also found time to enjoy life and pursue ventures off of the court in his retirement. In addition to collecting beautiful houses and fancy cars, the so-called “Black Mamba” mentored up-and-coming NBA stars, invested in projects in tech, athletics, and entertainment, and even won an Oscar.
Here’s a look back at the incredible life of Kobe Bryant.
Tony Manfred, Meredith Cash, and Cork Gaines contributed to this report.
He went to high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but he grew up in Italy. His father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played in the NBA for several years before moving the family to Italy so he could play in the Italian basketball league.
His time in Italy may have influenced Bryant’s love for Italian cars. He once walked into a Ferrari dealership and wrote a $329,000 check for a 458 Italia.
Bryant had a fashion phase before it was cool to be fashionable in the NBA. He appeared in a photoshoot for LA Weekly, and teammate Metta World Peace (known as Ron Artest at the time) said, “He’s a star. He’s Kobe Bryant. He can do what he wants.”
LA Times Magazine
In his younger days, Bryant partied with some of the best and brightest in the league and was friends with numerous celebs.
But at games, he kept it classy.
Bryant is the second-highest-paid NBA player ever, with $323 million in career salary. He trails only Kevin Garnett, but LeBron James is catching up quickly.
Beyond casual bets, Bryant had the income to take far more serious risks. During his NBA career, Bryant made a whopping $680 million in endorsements with companies like Nike, Lenovo, Hublot, and the publishing company Panini Group.
Shortly after his NBA retirement in 2016, Bryant also started the production company Kobe Studios (since rebranded as Granity Studios) with the goal of “creating new ways to tell stories around sports.”
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
In 2017, Bryant’s animated short film “Dear Basketball” won an Academy Award.
But not all of Bryant’s entertainment ventures were as successful. Bryant once went all-in on a rap career, even enlisting heavyweight hip-hop video director Hype Williams to direct the video for his first single, “K.O.B.E.” The song was not well-received and the video was never released.
The couple married in 2001 and had four daughters together.Kobe Bryant carries his daughter Gianna, as his wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia (2nd R) stand next to him during the NBA Championship parade in Los Angeles, California, June 21, 2010.
Bryant’s life wasn’t without controversy — in July 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a woman in his Colorado hotel room the night before he was slated to have surgery on his right knee.
Bryant admitted to having an adulterous sexual encounter with the 19-year-old but claimed he viewed the incident as consensual.
In a stunning apology, Bryant said: “I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
In retirement, Bryant became an adroit businessman and investor. He was known to cold-call business people and entrepreneurs to learn more about them and their secrets to success.
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Billionaire investor Chris Sacca became an early mentor to Bryant in investing. “My phone never stops buzzing in the middle of the night. It’s Kobe, reading this article, checking out this tweet, following this guy, diving into this Ted Talk, diving into the Y Combinator Demo Day stuff,” Sacca said.Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital.
Of course, Kobe didn’t let himself stray too far from the world of basketball. He analyzed NBA and WNBA players, teams, and trends in detail on ESPN+.
He also mentored several NBA stars after his own retirement, including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, and Candace Parker.
Jayson Tatum / Instagram
He put all of his energy into shaping his legacy: “To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me,” he once said. “That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”