What Kobe Bryant Was Doing In His Final Days

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 in Calabasas, Calif., with the accident killing the pilot and all eight passengers on board — including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. As TMZ reported, the flying conditions were extremely foggy, with even the LAPD air support remaining on ground that day. The outlet also reported on available flight data at the time, which suggested that the NBA star's chopper collided with a mountain "at 1700 feet," while the pilot was attempting to maneuver around the rough conditions.  

The world instantly mourned the loss of the basketball hero, with celebrities reacting to Bryant's death, as well. As A-listers piled into the Staples Center (the home venue of the L.A. Lakers) for the 62nd Grammy Awards — one thing was for certain: his passing reverberated through the arena. As host Alicia Keys told the crowd (via USA Today), "We're all feeling crazy sadness right now. Because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero ... We're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."

Of course, the tragedy came as a sudden shock to many, as Bryant was very active in the celebrity world. "I just saw you man," wrote comedian Kevin Hart on his Instagram page, adding, "This hurts my heart. God please place your hands on his family and help guide them thru this unbearable time. We love you forever man...Legends never die!!!!" Although the basketball star retired from the sport in 2016, he still remained extremely busy. Here's what Kobe Bryant was doing in his final days. 

Kobe Bryant's 'meaningful second act' had only just begun

As former president Barack Obama put it in his tribute to the fallen NBA legend, "Kobe was ... just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act." 

In what became his final interview on Jan. 23, 2020, Kobe Bryant shared with USA Today exactly what this new career direction entailed — and it went far beyond the boundaries of basketball. In 2017, the sports alum wrote and narrated the short film Dear Basketball, taking home an Oscar, Sports Emmy, and Annie award. As Bryant sat in his production studio during the interview with the outlet, he stared at his awards. "They're at the top for me," he explained. "It's not something that was expected. As a kid, you kind of have the goal of winning championships and all these sorts of things. Being in the industry that I'm in now? It wasn't something that was thought of me winning an Oscar."

For Bryant, he found it easy to stay busy after he bid farewell to the court. As USA Today explained, "He founded Granity Studios, a multimedia company that has produced an ESPN+ series that analyzes professional athletes' performances (Detail) and a No. 1-ranked kids and family podcast that teaches life lessons through melodies and sports (The Punies)."

Dear Basketball wasn't the first time Bryant wrote, either, as he also published "other biographies and fantasy novels," and has "overseen the publication of three sports fantasy children's books" — including a new one, The Wizenard Series: Season One, set to hit bookshelves in March of 2020. "You got to do what you love to do," Bryant explained. "I love telling stories. I love inspiring kids."

Kobe Bryant was mentoring a new generation of stars

The world lost two basketball players on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, as Kobe Bryant's daughter, Gianna Bryant, was a budding sports star. As it turned out, Kobe was actually coaching his 13-year-old daughter's basketball team the day before the tragedy.

According to the New York Post, the pair was en route to the same court they practiced on the day prior — the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif, co-founded by the Black Mamba himself and Sports Academy's CEO Chad Faulkner. "He had a clipboard, he was drawing up plays and talking to [the players]," detailed one person who was in the space on Saturday. "He was a little bit animated at times, but it was in a very positive way." Showcasing how invested Kobe was in coaching a new generation of basketball players, a witness told the New York Post that he "had really good energy with his daughter," adding that Kobe "took a few extra timeouts to explain things to the kids."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the opposing team, the Fresno Lady Heat, arrived at the Mamba Sports Academy on the day of the incident to learn that the match had been canceled. As Demetrius Porter, coach of the Fresno team, told the Fresno Bee, "We walked into the gym and everyone was on their knees and praying. [My girls] were crying and in disbelief." 

Kobe Bryan's parting words reveal his character

Though no one could have predicted the tragic helicopter crash, messages that Kobe Bryant sent to loved ones in the days and hours before his death have now taken on a deeper meaning. 

The night before his death, Bryant tweeted a congratulatory message to fellow NBA superstar and fellow Laker LeBron James, applauding James for breaking Bryant's career record of 33,643 points: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644," Bryant said. The next morning, an emotional James was spotted in Los Angeles as he exited a team plane. 

Though many sports fans constantly compared the two athletes in an attempt to determine which baller was the best, Bryant's final text to James underscored a different focus — one he reiterated in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times just days before his death. "I want to see people do well, I want to see them do better than anything I've ever done; that's just the way it should be," Bryant said.

We here at Nicki Swift send our condolences to the Bryant family.