Three years ago today, NBA Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash. Up until August of 2022, his widow, Vanessa Bryant, was embroiled in a landmark lawsuit with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office.
Bryant initially filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company and pilot Aro Zobayan’s estate. Bryant and the six other victims’ families reached a settlement in June 2021 confidentially. It was then revealed months later that several police officers at the site had illegally distributed photos of the crash site. One officer allegedly bragged about witnessing the crash, which is what tipped off the sheriff to the photos existence.
Bryant filed the suit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, as he failed to conduct a basic investigation of materials gathered at the crash site. In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that made sharing graphic crime scene images illegal and punishable with a $1,000 dollar fine.
After more than a year of fighting to have the crash photos sealed, Bryant was awarded $16 million after a federal jury found that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and fire officials had violated the civil rights of the deceased and their families. Chris Chester, Bryant’s fellow plaintiff in the suit whose wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, also were killed in the crash, were awarded $15 million.
The suit set a precedence for other families of victims of tragedies. In the state of California, there are now strong boundaries surrounding the distribution of crime scene photos thanks to Bryant’s lawsuit.
This day last year, a statue of Kobe and Gianna was placed at the crash site in Calabasas, California.
A Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant statue has been placed at crash site on the 3-year anniversary of the helicopter crash
Mambas Forever 💜💛 pic.twitter.com/Z9dIg0NY3M
— Mamba Insider (@Mamba_Insider) January 26, 2023
Vanessa Bryant maintains a private life, but the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which works to help give children in underserved communities access to sports, posted a tribute on their Instagram story today in honor of Kobe and Gianna.
Others honor Kobe’s legacy by remembering his kindness, and the strong bond he had with his daughter. Former First Lady of California and journalist Maria Shriver penned a heartfelt message about the cultural impact Kobe had on fatherhood in popular culture.
I know Kobe Bryant is & always will be a basketball legend, but when I think of him, this is the image that comes to mind. He was the ultimate girl dad. He made it something to be — to honor, to be proud of. That alone changes lives. It changes men. It changes how girls grow up. pic.twitter.com/z8l4pjb95e
— Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) January 26, 2023
An old Instagram post from actor Jonah Hill detailed an interaction with Kobe on the court that became an internet meme in the 10’s. Today, the post’s heartfelt message trends on Twitter.
Jonah Hill’s post about Kobe Bryant & his brother 💔 pic.twitter.com/AbNPGdt15k
— memory lane (@bitchiwas999) January 26, 2023
Art installations across Los Angeles depicting Kobe and Gianna were shared across social media and visited by Lakers fans today to honor their legacy.
Honoring the memory of the beautiful souls we lost 3 years ago today:
Artist ig Mrbrainwash ig farmerjohnla pic.twitter.com/QoCufCaLG3
— Wynn Westmoreland (@WynnWs) January 26, 2023
NFL New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban reflected on Bryant’s dedication to playing a fair game to the best of his ability.
Bill Belichick and Nick Saban reflect on Kobe Bryant.pic.twitter.com/lkQ2AzL3sS
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) January 26, 2023
To honor Bryant’s legacy, donations are accepted by the Mamba and Mambacita Foundation (named in honor of his nickname, Black Mamba). Apparel sales from the site also count towards donations. The Foundation is led by Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant.
Bryant is also survived by three daughters, Natalia Diamante Bryant, 20, Bianka Bella Bryant, 6, and Capri Kobe Bryant, 3.