Legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant (1978–2020), born Kobe Bean Bryant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, played twenty seasons with the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers, where he won five NBA championship titles and became known as one of the game's all-time great players. He joined the NBA directly from high school, after having spent several years of his childhood in Italy, where he played both basketball and soccer and became fluent in the Italian language. In 2008, he won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. He played on the U.S. Olympic basketball teams in 2008 and 2012, winning two gold medals. After suffering several injuries, Kobe retired from the NBA in 2016, drawing this comment from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: "...Kob Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game. Whether competing in the finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game."
Kobe was named for a Japanese steak and for his father Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, who also played basketball for the NBA and, from 1984 to 1991, for the Italian League. Kobe gave himself the nickname Black Mamba—the mamba is a venomous snake—as an alter ego after his reputation was tarnished when sexual assault charges were brought against him, although they were later dropped. He used the nickname when partnering with Nike and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club to create the Mamba League, a youth basketball league to give hundreds of young people free access to the sport. He also attached the name to a sports academy he created—the Mamba Sports Academy—to provide competitors with athletic and lifestyle training in several sports.
Also involved in film, Kobe won an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball (2017), which he first wrote as a poem. He also played himself in the film Daddy's Home (2015) and hosted the series Detail (2018, 2019), which focused on the details of playing basketball.
Kobe died, along with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26, 2020. The helicopter was headed to a Mamba Sports Academy game when it went down in heavy fog.