Thursday marked the third anniversary of the death of former Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas, California.
Bryant, 41, who won five NBA championships in his 20-year Hall of Fame career, was traveling with his daughter to attend one of her youth basketball games in nearby Thousand Oaks at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy ("Black Mamba" was among many nicknames for Bryant) when the helicopter crashed about 14 miles away.
The tragedy — which also took the lives of John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan – shook the sporting world, given Bryant's popularity spread well outside of the NBA.
And it still reverberates today. Author and ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said he is still devastated by Bryant's death.
"I miss my brother. He was one of the most brilliant dudes I have ever seen," Smith said during a tribute to Bryant on ESPN's "First Take" on Thursday. "His hard work. His dedication. His focus to his craft. His love for his family. His love for the game of basketball.
"It's still devastating to think about. It's still like a pall hovering over the city of Los Angeles that you don't get to see him any longer. We really, really miss him. We always will."
Bryant, who spent time in Italy when his father played professional basketball there, grew to love the game of soccer and was a big follower of Italian club AC Milan, which marked the anniversary of his death Thursday.
"A genuine basketball giant with a Rossonero heart. Remembering Kobe Bryant," the club tweeted, along with a photo of Bryant wearing an AC Milan jersey with the caption, "In Loving Memory, Kobe Bryant."
Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona tweeted: "Three years without Kobe Bryant. Miss you, Mamba."
Bryant was survived by his wife Vanessa and children Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3. The Daily Mail reported Tuesday that Vanessa Bryant took her daughters to Disneyland on Sunday, three days after Natalia's birthday, and Vanessa posted photos of the excursion on her Instagram account.
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