By Robert Brizel, Brick City Boxing Staff Writer
Retired basketball superstar Koby Bryant, known as ‘Black Mamba’ was a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Lakers, with 18 all-star games, five world championship rings, and two Olympic gold medal championships to his credit. Tragically, Bryant, 41, died with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash which killed all nine passengers, including Orange Coast College Baseball Coach John Altobelli, his wife and daughter, and the helicopter pilot. The nine individuals were traveling in a S-76 helicopter which was seen to be in distress on Sunday, January 26, 2020, before going down just before 10 A.M., into a hillside near Calabasas, California, some 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California. Weather conditions in vicinity of the crash indicated dense heavy fog, low clouds and restricted visibility, which obscured the high terrain where Bryant traveled regularly on his private helicopter route. A brush fire resulted after the crash. There were no survivors.
Kobe Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1996. Kobe Bryant remains a cinch to be inducted to the Naismith Professional Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts posthumously, in what will be his first ballot appearance in summer 2020. In retirement, Bryant operated the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California.
Kobe was a true friend of professional boxing who endorsed Nike. The Nike Kobe IX high top sneaker design which Bryant endorsed was inspired by eight-division world boxing champion and current World Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, who signed his own deal with Nike in 2011. Kobe had seen Manny Pacquiao spar, and was intrigued by Pacquiao’s high top boxing shoes. Kobe would eventually adopt both the hightop concept and design into his higher end Nike basketball sneakers. This sneaker evolution and revolution happened when Bryant, a big-time boxing fan of Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao’s during his lifetime, changed his personal style from his usual low-cut basketball sneakers and switched to high top sneakers, similar to the high top boxing shoes which Manny Pacquiao and other world class professional boxers wear in the boxing ring. “Well, watching (Manny) Pacquiao spar one day. I noticed he was wearing really high [top boxing shoes]. He said it was for ankle stability and things of that nature.”
“The world lost a legend today. The impact and legacy he left behind will last forever,” noted Pacquiao, Bryant’s longtime close friend, business associate, and fellow athlete. Bryant and Pacquiao had a special relationship, both professional and personal, because of them placed a high value on ankle stability, which would be reflected in Kobe’s search and discovery of the perfect Nike basketball sneaker, a hightop design imitating boxing shoes.