It’s hard to believe Kobe and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash seven months ago. Seems just like last week and years ago all at once.
Sunday would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday. When the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Portland Trail Blazers in their NBA playoff series Monday, they will wear their special "Black Mamba" uniforms in Game 4 on Aug. 24 — 8/24, the two numbers Bryant wore as a Laker.
Bryant was in the early stages of his second career as a storyteller and businessman when he, daughter Gianna, 13, and seven other people with close ties to Bryant and basketball died. Bryant also was a loving and devoted girl dad to Gianna, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. That was a part of his life that close friend and Lakers president Rob Pelinka talked about at Bryant’s memorial in February.
"He just loved his girls, and there was nothing in the world that meant more to him," Pelinka said.
Bryant has missed out on so much in such a short time: his daughters’ events, including Gianna’s basketball games (she wore No. 2), the return of the WNBA season — he undoubtedly would have taken Gianna to see the Los Angeles Sparks — his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Lakers making the playoffs.
LeBron James, who passed Bryant on the NBA's all-time scoring list the day before Bryant died, has powered the Lakers back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Before beating the Blazers in Game 2, their last playoff win was in 2012. Bryant retired in 2016.
"A day doesn't go by where I don't think about him," James said before the NBA restarted its season in July. "A day doesn't go by where our organization does not remember him and think about not only Kobe but Gigi and Vanessa and the girls. ... We still wear 24 and 8 and the No. 2 with pride and remember how great they were."
Gone but not forgotten, we remember Bryant on his birthday:
Kobe Bryant's last interview
USA TODAY Sports NBA reporter Mark Medina sat down with Bryant on Jan. 17, in what would be his final interview. Bryant was excited about the future and his upcoming book release for "The Wizenard Series: Season One", his fourth young adult tome. He talked about coaching Gianna and her AAU team and his joy at watching her grow into a talented player. And he discussed his family, including wife Vanessa and his other daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri, and how he was looking forward to spending time with them now that the stresses and travel associated with being an elite-level athlete were behind him.
Nike also is launching Mamba Week on Sunday and promises to include Bryant-themed jerseys and shoes. The sports apparel giant also has pledged to donate $1 million to the foundation.