The entire world of sports is in shock after media channels starting broadcasting on Sunday night (morning time in US), the news of a helicopter accident in which the legendary Kobe Bryant lost his life.
Five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, 18-time All Star, double Olympic champion, Oscar winner, an up-and-coming entrepreneur, and an elite motivational speaker, Kobe Bryant has left behind a legacy that transcends the boundaries of basketball.
Proof of him being an all-around-emblem, and not just a sports icon, are the reactions coming from all fields of work. From Cardi B to Bruno Mars or Justin Bieber, from Neymar to Manchester City or FC Barcelona, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Hollywood actors, and then to the entire world of basketball, everyone paid homage to Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was next to him in the crashed helicopter.
More than a source of inspiration for entire generations of athletes and an idol for millions of basketball fans, Kobe proved his genius well beyond the basketball court. In 2011, he became the first athlete who was not an actor to have his hand and footprints enshrined on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame. Later on, he transformed his retirement letter, entitled Dear Basketball, into a short film that brought him an Oscar in 2018.
NBA basketball had already been shaken up, earlier this year, by the passing of David Stern, the man who, with the contribution of Kobe Bryant, built the north-American professional basketball league into a global entertainment product.
Over time, the sport that always keeps you looking up, has seen other broken destinies and lives taken too soon – legendary athletes who are now welcoming Kobe in the team of angels.
In 1986, American basketball lost Len Bias, considered by many a talent greater than Michael Jordan himself. An exceptional player during his entire college career, Bias was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. In the night that followed, the 22-year-young athlete, died from cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose.
Spanish basketball was to experience its biggest tragedy in 1989, when Fernando Martin, Real Madrid’s star player, shockingly passed away at only 27 years old, in a car accident. Olympic silver medalist with Spain and winner of six European trophies at club level, Martin was a fabulous athlete who had exceptional results in swimming, handball and table tennis, before finally choosing basketball.
Perhaps the best European basketball player in history, Drazen Petrovic, began the 1992-1993 NBA season by catching everyone’s attention, after having conquered every European basketball trophy possible, as well as three Olympic medals. In the summer of ’93 he was to lose his life in a car accident, on a highway in Germany. His girlfriend, Klara, was driving. The Croatian instantly became a saint for his compatriots, who turned his tomb into a pilgrimage site, and named many arenas, streets or squares after the beloved basketball player.
Romanian basketball has not avoided premature losses either. 15 years ago, on January 22nd, 2005, Antonio Alexe, one of the best Romanian basketball players in history, passed away in a car accident, near Sinaia. The night before, Alexe had just qualified his team, Asesoft Ploiești, in the FIBA Europe Cup Final Four, and was headed to Oradea, to his family. The team from Prahova was to win the FIBA Europe Cup trophy in the same year, the only club-level trophy for Romanian basketball. The basketball hall in Oradea is currently named after the legendary Antonio Alexe.