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One Year Later: Remembering Kobe and Gigi Bryant, others killed in helicopter crash

Kobe and Gigi Bryant and everyone else aboard the helicopter were killed instantly in the crash on Jan. 26, 2020.

WASHINGTON — It’s been a year since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26, 2020.

They were on their way to a basketball tournament on a Sunday morning. Bryant, Gigi -- that’s what most called his daughter -- and everyone else aboard the helicopter were killed instantly in the crash, officials said.

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Bryant, 41, won five championships in his 20 NBA seasons, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a Grammy winner. He was a best-selling author of children’s books. He will soon be officially enshrined as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Knowing that the anniversary of Bryant's death will be emotional for everyone, Lakers coach Frank Vogel is giving his players the day off to allow them to better manage their grief and honor their late teammate Bryant “how they see fit.”

“It's not a day remembrance like his birthday,” Vogel said. “It's more of a somber-tone-type-of-day.”

The Lakers are spending the night in Cleveland before flying to Philadelphia — Bryant's hometown — on Tuesday. They play the 76ers on Wednesday.

“God rest his soul, God rest the soul of Gigi and the seven others that perished,” said Miami assistant coach and former NBA player Caron Butler, who was close with Bryant for years. “The legacy that he left, man, he did it all. He inspired. When you think about being better, embracing the storm, having the right mentality and perspective about life and always trying to be better, he embodied it all and that’s why his legacy will live forever.”

Credit: AP
July 26, 2018 Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, Calif. (AP)

Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna was the second oldest of his four daughters. Bryant described his daughter as "something else" in an interview with the Los Angeles Times and said she was determined to play for the WNBA one day.

The other victims in the crash were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Ara Zobayan and Christina Mauser.

John Altobelli was a baseball coach at Orange Coast College. His brother, Troy, who is the sports information director at the college, confirmed Altobelli was one of the victims on board. Altobelli's wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa were also on board. Alyssa played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter Gianna. 

Christina Mauser was a girls' basketball coach.

Ara Zobayan was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash. One of his students, Darren Kemp, told the Los Angeles Times Zobayan was a dedicated and caring instructor.

Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton Chester were also on the helicopter at the time. Todd Schmidt, a former principal at the elementary School Payton attended, Harbor View Elementary said the Chesters were "engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter" in a Facebook post.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife and Gigi's mom, posted on Instagram Tuesday showing a letter written by Gigi's best friend Aubrey.

"Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my IG," Bryant said in the post's caption. "My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much."

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