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OkStraw Remembers Kobe Bryant

It’s with heart-shattering sadness that we at OkStraw Paper Straws announce the tragic and untimely death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, and 7 others in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning, January 26th. This tragedy hit us incredibly hard, and we’re still coming to terms with the loss of Kobe. 


For us millennials, Kobe Bryant was our generation’s Michael Jordan or Kareem Abdul Jabar. Kobe absolutely dominated the court during his 20-year playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, breaking numerous records. At OkStraw Paper Straws, we want to dedicate this article to an icon who inspired passion through perseverance, tragically taken from this life.

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Kobe Bryant’s fateful journey was an otherwise routine trip; he regularly flew by helicopter to avoid Los Angeles’ infamous traffic. All 9 people departed from John Wayne Airport in neighboring Orange County to Burbank Airport, where they were to attend a basketball game at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy near Thousand Oaks, west of Los Angeles. 


On board was Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Orange Coast College basketball coach John Altobelli and his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, Mamba’s assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan. Payton, Alyssa and Gianna were all teammates on Mamba’s basketball team that Kobe coached, and were set to play that day. 

During the flight, the helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B, was near Burbank Airport when it flew westward. Before the helicopter could land, it ascended briefly before descending at high speed and crashing into a steep hillside in the suburban city of Calabasas, west of Los Angeles, at 9:47 AM. Tragically, everyone on board the helicopter lost their lives, despite emergency responders’ best efforts. 


While accident investigators have not yet determined the cause, heavy fog that morning and possible engine failure are being considered. Let us recognize the unbelievable pain the families and friends of those 9 souls who lost their lives that flight are experiencing. Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna are survived by wife and mother Vanessa, and their three daughters Natalia, Bianka, and 7 month-old Capri. 

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If there was anyone who fit the description of a real superhero to us at OkStraw, then Kobe was a top contender. Kobe didn’t put on a cape and a mask when he went to work, and he certainly wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider. In fact, Kobe’s superhero prowess on the basketball court came from something that exists in all of us: passion.

For Kobe Bryant, passion in what he did was more than just a word, it was a method for his life. During his high school years, Kobe would show up for practice at 5 AM, while everyone else was still asleep, he played classmates in one-on-one games to 100, and practiced shooting hoops in the dark. Kobe even practiced his moves on court without a basketball, according to Shaquille O’Neal, something that surely raised a few eyebrows.

Injuries rarely slowed Kobe down, thanks to his passion. During the Lakers’ 1999-2000 season, Kobe broke his wrist, but he still showed up to practice with his right arm in a cast, and dribbled and shot with his left instead. No lights, basketball or dominant arm to use? Kobe still found a way to play; passion was his way of life.

Kobe Bryant’s passion didn’t end at the basketball court, he took this way of life and applied it to everything he did. Kobe worked with the Make-A-Wish-Foundation for more than 20 years, personally meeting over 100 children suffering from critical illnesses. In 2012, Kobe helped raise $81 million for cancer research on behalf of Stand Up To Cancer, and the year prior, he and Vanessa founded an organization that helps homeless youths in Los Angeles. 


Kobe’s fame and Kobe’s 2017 animated short film Dear Basketball even won him an Academy Award. While we can’t all be legendary basketball players like Kobe, we can certainly learn a thing or two from him, and make ourselves better people. If we applied that intense passion to our lives at even a tenth of the energy that Kobe lived his, imagine what we could achieve. Kobe taught us that passion doesn’t only need to be a side hobby, it can be an entire way of life.

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From all of us at OkStraw, we would like to give our most sincere condolences to the families of everyone on that fateful helicopter flight. Losing such an iconic person like Kobe Bryant is a horrible punch to the heart, but let’s honor his legacy in the best way we can. 

Let’s fire up this unstoppable juggernaut of passion within ourselves, and strive to do our best, no matter in what it may be. We’re only on this planet for a very short time, and whether or not we all think it’s a one-shot deal, let’s treat it like it is. Whether it be playing basketball,  always do better than necessary. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those whose lives were cut far too on that flight.

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