The Mark of the Black Mamba

Remembering a legend


Edgar Munoz/Poly Optimist

Fan visits a mural in L.A. dedicated to Kobe Bryant.

Brandon Brown, Staff Writer

Shock spread around the world as news outlets flooded people’s phone notifications about the sudden and tragic passing of legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant and 8 others who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Jan 26, 2020.

First came disbelief, as people checked for themselves if the news spread around by friends was actually true. Grief came immediately after. Not only for the loss of L.A.’s beloved player, but also for his daughter Gianna and the other 7 people who died.

According to the New York Times, the crash was the result of poor visibility and the fact that the helicopter’s owner, “did not have the necessary federal certification” to even fly through the fog and clouds. The commonly-used Sikorsky S-76B had “a reputation as a safe aircraft”. However, the helicopter that carried the retired Lakers star lacked a warning system that detected whether the helicopter was too close to the ground. Whether or not the warning system’s absence caused the accident is still being determined.

Nevertheless, the details did little to change the cloud of sorrow that still lingered in the world, and here at Poly. English teacher and girl’s basketball coach Tremeka Batiste remembers Kobe’s last game as one of his greatest.

“He was wearing down, you know? Because I mean he was getting up there…for all the years he’d been playing [basketball], he was like an old man…and it didn’t matter, because he put on a show. It was like the end of an era,” said Batiste. Kobe finished his last game with a bang, scoring 60 points.

In the first basketball game following the death of Kobe Bryant, Batiste noticed a significant drop in the motivation of her players. The lack of enthusiasm and energy led to a sizable 19 point loss. The loss surprised Batiste, because the team had already beaten the visiting team.

“It was afterwards when I was reflecting that I figured out what went wrong. I didn’t talk to them before the game because I didn’t want to,” Batiste said. “I didn’t want to ruin the mood but I think the mood was already ruined.”

Xitlanly Contreras, a girls basketball player, was in disbelief when the news first broke.

“I didn’t want to believe it. Obviously I didn’t want it to be true,” said Contreras.

Julian Cruz, a boys basketball player, received the news immediately after waking up.

“My mom woke me up. She knew how much it meant to me. It was so unreal to me because he was one of my childhood heroes. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even think about it.”

Long time Kobe fan and boys basketball coach Alex Pladevela, followed Kobe’s career closely in newspapers, before the rise of the internet. Pladevela spoke about the lessons Kobe taught him, such as being prepared and being tough, and how these lessons helped him coach. He said the reason Kobe was close to so many people was because of his ability to inspire, and to show that anyone could live the life he did.

“He’s big in China. He’s big in Asia. I’m Filipino, and he’s the number one player in the Philippines. But just the type of person he is. Everyone could relate to him…It just chokes me up. I feel like I grew up with that guy. I felt like he was my hero. This will stay with me for a lifetime.”

Edgar Munoz/Poly Optimist
L.A. Live: Fans of Kobe Bryant look in silence at his memorial.