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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Kobe Bryant

Shareef O’Neal pays tribute to Kobe Bryant with jacket

Shareef O'Neal

Shareef O’Neal was close with Kobe Bryant and paid tribute to the late former Laker with a cool jacket.

Shareef, who is the son of Shaquille O’Neal, shared a photo on Instagram Saturday that showed him wearing the style of jacket that Kobe wore after winning the NBA championship in 2002.

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That was the third of three championships in a row won by the Lakers. They beat the Pacers in 2000, the 76ers in 2001, and they swept the Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals.

Shaq and Kobe teamed up for those three championships before the team broke apart. Shaq later won a championship in Miami, while Kobe won two more with the Lakers. Whatever tension that existed between Shaq and Kobe was later worked out by the two stars, and Shaq has spoken glowingly about Kobe since January’s fatal helicopter crash.

You may also recall that Kobe texted Shareef hours before his death. Shareef began his college basketball career at UCLA but has since transferred to LSU.

Daniel Rodriguez seemed to dedicate UFC win to Kobe Bryant

UFC

Daniel Rodriguez won his UFC fight on Saturday night and then appeared to dedicate his win to Kobe Bryant.

The 33-year-old fighter beat Gabriel Green via unanimous decision in their welterweight fight at UFC on ESPN: Woodley vs. Burns at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. At the end of his fight, Rodriguez seemed to say “for Kobe.”

Rodriguez is from Los Angeles, which could explain his support of the late former Laker.

Rodriguez is now 12-1 in his pro MMA career.

Ex-Kobe Bryant teammate shares story of seeing him again days before his death

Kobe Bryant

Tarik Black got to see Kobe Bryant one last time before Bryant’s tragic passing in January, and it is a memory that will stay with him forever.

Speaking this week with Matt Tait of KUsports.com, the former Los Angeles Lakers big man shared the story of his final encounter with Bryant, which happened just one week before Bryant’s death. Black, who had been playing professionally in Israel, suffered an injury that sent him back to Los Angeles earlier than normal, and he was able to see Bryant for the first time since they were teammates nearly four years earlier.

“I actually got a chance to thank him for what he meant for my life,” Black said. “And he just kept saying, ‘I’m proud of you.’ So it rocked me to my core when I heard about his passing.

“This is the thing that’s tough to admit, but I didn’t really like Kobe growing up,” Black added. “He seemed cocky, arrogant. But that’s a real testament to him as a man, that he could change my opinion of him like that. I love him now. I’ll appreciate him and everything he did for me for the rest of my life.”

Black was teammates with Bryant on the Lakers for Bryant’s last two seasons in the NBA from 2015 to 2016. He also shared what it was like to witness Bryant’s final career game against the Utah Jazz in the interview with Tait.

Black’s story is certainly a haunting one and also very similar to the encounter that another former Bryant teammate had with him around the same time.

Robert Horry dishes on wild Kobe Bryant-Michael Jordan similarities

Watching ESPN’s highly-acclaimed documentary “The Last Dance” proved to be an eerie experience for Robert Horry.

Appearing this week on “Wireside Chat” with Houston Rockets broadcaster Craig Ackerman, Horry said that the series reminded him of his late teammate Kobe Bryant with the similarities between Bryant and Michael Jordan.

“I was there from the beginning when Kobe first came in the league as a rookie,” said Horry. “It’s so weird watching ‘The Last Dance’ and knowing that Utah was playing the Bulls. That’s the game [Game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference Semifinals] that kinda turned Kobe’s career. He shot an airball down the stretch, kinda went from [there to] going into the lab, working hard and trying to become the player he was.

“He was just a great teammate, a great player, one of the smartest players you could ever play with,” Horry continued about Bryant. “It’s so weird getting a chance to really watch Michael Jordan in ‘The Last Dance’ and hear the words that he uses and everything. It’s almost like Kobe just took everything he said, everything he did, his mannerisms, his language, his lingo, and just copied it. It’s like watching a ghost now, and I hate to use those terms, but to watch Michael Jordan is like, man. How did Kobe learn everything this dude did to a T and made it a little better in some areas.”

Horry was teammates with Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers for Bryant’s first seven seasons in the NBA, including their run of three straight championships from 2000 to 2002. He also competed against Jordan for many years, having entered the league in 1992.

Bryant enjoyed a very close relationship with Jordan, which was spotlighted in part during Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” where Bryant gave Jordan credit for his success in the NBA. He was known to idolize Jordan and patterned his playstyle, leadership qualities, and competitive fire after that of His Airness. Even upon Bryant’s passing, Jordan was one of the speakers at his memorial service, and it is clear that the two will always share an inextricable link.

Kobe Bryant’s sports academy makes puzzling decision to remove ‘Mamba’ from name

Kobe Bryant

The Mamba Sports Academy was appropriately named in honor of Kobe Bryant after the NBA legend invested in the business venture back in 2018, but that name is changing now that Bryant is no longer living.

Sports Academy CEO Chad Faulkner, who partnered with Kobe for the athletic training venture two years ago, told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears on Tuesday that he is changing the name of the Mamba Sports Academy back to The Sports Academy. Faulkner said the decision was made out of respect for Bryant.

“Our beliefs and thoughts are Kobe is one of one. ‘Mamba’ is one of one,” Faulkner explained. “And with that as we carry on as The Sports Academy, it’s more appropriate to put Kobe in another Hall of Fame, if you will, and to really respect a legacy that is really unrivaled, frankly, and let that live on its own. We will continue to do the work we do.”

The decision is puzzling to many. It seems like it would make more sense to honor Bryant by keeping his nickname attached to the training center, but Faulkner doesn’t see it that way. Kobe was heavily involved with The Mamba Academy and hosted a workout and classroom tutorial with several of the NBA’s top players there. It would appear Faulkner thinks it is no longer appropriate to use Bryant’s nickname since Kobe can no longer be a part of that.

One other way The Sports Academy could honor Bryant is with a memorial at the Thousand Oaks and Redondo Beach locations.

“That will really end up being up to the desires of the family and to the respect of the family,” Faulkner said. “For us, we leave that up to the future. This is such a critical time for the family to keep working through the grieving process and everything they’re working for. We are going to play really conservative from that approach. We are all for it. … But it’s really not necessarily the right thing for us to do proactively.”

You have to assume Faulkner thought he was doing the right thing, but the decision to remove “Mamba” from the name is bizarre. The Mamba Academy was a huge part of Kobe’s life, and he and his daughter Gianna were on the way there at the time of their tragic helicopter crash.

Rep for pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter says passengers responsible for deaths

Kobe Bryant

An investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others back in January remains open, but there has been plenty of finger-pointing in the wake of the tragedy. The latest comes from the pilot’s side.

Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company in February. The lawsuit alleges that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, did not have proper clearance to fly in the conditions that were present the day the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26. According to new court documents obtained by TMZ, a relative of Zobayan has answered the lawsuit and placed blame on the passengers for their deaths.

The response states that “any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility.”

That likely means Zobayan’s representatives are claiming Bryant and the others on board were aware of the risks that the weather conditions presented. It remains to be seen if assuming that risk places some of the blame on their side. Zobayan was among the nine people who died in the crash.

Unfortunately, these types of legal battles were expected. Vanessa Bryant also filed a recent legal claim over some photos that were taken at the crash site. There will be a lot of court activity related to the crash for years to come.

Vanessa Bryant files legal claim over photos taken of helicopter crash site

Vanessa Bryant speech

Vanessa Bryant is still sorting through much of the legal fallout from the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna back in January. The latest step she took was on Friday, when she filed a legal claim over some unauthorized photos that were captured at the crash site.

Bryant filed a legal claim seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish after it was determined that eight LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies took photos of the crash and shared them with others, according to court documents obtained by People. The photos were taken despite Bryant going to the Sheriff’s office the morning of the crash on Jan. 26 and requesting that the crash site be designated a no-fly zone.

“In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,” the claim states. “As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes.”

The claim asserts that the Sheriff’s Department’s “mishandling of this egregious misconduct” worsened Vanessa Bryant’s level of emotional distress, as she learned of the photo leak more than a month after the crash through media outlets. A spokesperson for the Bryant family told People that the court filing is “solely about enforcing accountability, protecting the victims and making sure no one ever has to deal with this conduct in the future.”

“When a family suffers the loss of loved ones, they have the right to expect that they will be treated with dignity and respect,” the family spokesperson said. “The Deputies in this case betrayed that sacred trust. This claim is intended to hold the Sheriff’s Department accountable and to prevent future misconduct.”

Two LA firefighters also took photos at the crash site and were instructed to delete them. Bryant’s legal team released a statement on her behalf back in March condemning the behavior of the deputies and firefighters.

According to a March report from TMZ, one of the deputies showed the photos to a woman at a bar while trying to impress her. The bartender saw what happened and filed an online complaint with the Sheriff’s Department. The photos were also shared at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation.

Prior to speaking out about the unauthorized photos, Bryant also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter that Kobe, Gianna and seven others were traveling in.