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.
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.
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 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.
Mario Chalmers is offering a moving story about Kobe Bryant days after Bryant’s posthumous appearance on ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”
In an interview this week with EuroHoops, the former Miami Heat guard Chalmers revealed that Bryant reached out to him when he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon as member of the Memphis Grizzlies in March 2016.
“That was a tough day for me,” said Chalmers of the day that he suffered the injury. “I had conversations with the management about re-signing, it hurt my soul and pride. It gave me a different view of life and basketball. A lot of things went through my mind.
“Kobe was the first person to reach out to me,” he added. “He gave me a call, helped me through my process. Dwyane Wade also was there for me and made sure I was okay. We texted a couple of times after the injury [with Kobe]”.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January, suffered an Achilles tear of his own in April 2013 at 34 years old and returned to play three more NBA seasons. Chalmers was able to play one more season with the Grizzlies after his injury and now play overseas in Greece.
The incoming Basketball Hall of Famer Bryant had a very memorable cameo in “The Last Dance,” and it is opening the gates for more cool stories about him like this one from Chalmers.
Kobe Bryant really had a great relationship with Michael Jordan, and that became even more evident thanks to episode 5 of “The Last Dance” documentary aired by ESPN.
The episode was dedicated to Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January. The episode began with Jordan talking some trash about Kobe before the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. Despite the trash talk, Jordan really did respect Bryant and even mentored him because he thought so highly of the late former Laker.
Bryant was even interviewed for the documentary and shared how much Jordan meant to him. Bryant credited MJ for being a big factor in the five championships Bryant won.
“At that point, Michael provided a lot of guidance for me,” Bryant said of MJ helping him in 1998. “Like I had a question about shooting the turnaround shot, so I asked him about it. He gave me a great, detailed answer, but on top of that, he said, ‘if you ever need anything, give me a call.’ He’s like my big brother.
“I truly hate having discussions about who would win 1-on-1. Fans saying, ‘you would beat Michael 1-on-1.’ I feel like what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
Kobe idolized Jordan. He tried to play like him, talk like him, lead like him, and win like him. Even his love letter to basketball was just like Jordan’s. Everything Kobe got from Jordan probably explains why Bryant wanted to help pass down all his knowledge to younger players upon Bryant’s retirement.
Michael Jordan was a great mentor to Kobe Bryant and treated the late former Los Angeles Lakers star as a little brother. But that doesn’t mean MJ didn’t have a point to prove to Kobe back in the day.
Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” documentary that aired on ESPN Sunday night began with a focus on the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. Footage in the documentary showed Jordan talking before the game about how Kobe was on a mission to go after everyone.
“That little Laker boy’s gonna take everyone one-on-one. He don’t let the game come to him. He just take it,” said Jordan.
MJ then trash-talked Kobe a bit for ball-hogging.
“After the first four attempts? If I was his teammate, I wouldn’t pass him the f—ing ball! ‘You want this ball again brother, you better rebound!'” Jordan joked about what his message would be to Kobe.
Of course, Bryant did earn Jordan’s respect and was able to learn so much from the former Bulls legend. But in 1998, that was only Kobe’s second season in the league. Bryant was just 19 years old, coming off the bench for the Lakers, and playing in his first All-Star Game. He felt he had a lot to prove at the time, and that’s why he went out there with the edgy attitude that helped him develop into a star. It’s also why Kobe got revenge on Michael several years later.
The already popular documentary series “The Last Dance” was made possible by camera crews being granted incredible access to the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, and it has given fans an opportunity to learn things about Michael Jordan’s legendary career that were not previously public information. Could we one day see a similar documentary about Kobe Bryant’s final NBA season?
Bryant had his own personal camera crew following the Los Angeles Lakers’ every move during the 2015-16 season, which was Kobe’s last in the NBA. According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, the crew had “unprecedented access” even beyond what the Lakers’ television partners were granted. As one former team staffer described to Holmes, there was always the option to tell camera crews from TV networks to stop recording if they were gathering footage in an off-limits area or if the cameras were rolling at an uncomfortable time. Bryant’s crew, however, essentially did whatever it wanted.
Former Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. was reminded of that season while watching “The Last Dance” on Sunday night, and he described the experience to Holmes.
“It was like, ‘All right, we got to really watch what we’re saying, watch what we’re talking about, because you have no idea who’s watching or editing this,'” Nance said. “That’s something we all kind of talked about as a team is like, ‘Hey, you never know where this is going. So let’s just keep it mellow around the cameras.’
“But then the longer the year went on, you just forget about them and just kind of stopped caring.”
There was likely plenty of behind-the-scenes drama in Kobe’s final season with the Lakers, though the situation was much different from what went on with the 1997-98 Bulls. Whereas Chicago won its sixth championship the season camera crews were following the team, the Lakers went 17-65 in Kobe’s final year. Bryant missed several games due to injury, and cameras were even given the rare privilege of access to the training room.
Sources told Holmes Kobe wanted control over the footage and had seen edited material and provided feedback in the months before he died in a helicopter crash. The plan was for a potential documentary to be released years from now, which could reportedly still happen.
Bryant was one of the most polarizing figures in sports history, so any documentary about his final NBA season would have been must-see TV even with him alive. Now that he has died, fan interest will almost certainly be even higher if and when the film or series is completed.
We have already seen some incredible content featuring Jordan in “The Last Dance,” and fans can only hope for a similar gift of behind-the-scenes footage from Kobe’s career.
Big changes are coming to the NBA G League, and Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy may be involved.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the G League’s new “Select Team,” featuring prep stars skipping college to play in the developmental league, is exploring using the Mamba Academy as its headquarters starting in the 2020-21 season.
Nothing is official, but the prep stars involved — including Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd — are operating under the assumption that the Mamba Academy will be their home base.
Former NBA coaches Sam Mitchell and David Fizdale are being considered as potential head coaches. It has been reported that Mitchell is considered the frontrunner.
Targeting the Mamba Academy facilities, which have been used to train players of all ages, is another sign of how serious this endeavor is. The G League is very serious about adding this pathway for prep stars, and have shown it in their planning so far.
Shareef O’Neal was one of the last people Kobe Bryant reached out to before the Los Angeles Lakers legend died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, and O’Neal says that has been a great source of motivation for him over the past several months.
Bryant checked in on O’Neal, who is the son of Shaquille O’Neal, the morning of the helicopter crash. Kobe sent Shareef a text message asking him, “You good fam?” O’Neal opened up about what that meant to him in a recent interview with B/R Hoops, and he said he now has a screenshot of the text saved as the background on his phone.
O’Neal announced just days before Kobe’s death that he was transferring from UCLA, so Kobe may have been checking in on him to see how things were going with that. O’Neal also took a medical redshirt as a freshman after doctors discovered he had a heart condition for which he underwent surgery.
While Shaq has indicated he has regrets over not remaining in closer contact with Kobe in recent years, it is clear the two Lakers legends were family. Shareef now has the text message from Kobe as a reminder that Bryant was thinking about him.