Gianna Bryant and Alyssa Altobelli’s fellow Mamba students paid tribute to the two teens just hours after they lost their lives in a tragic helicopter crash.
It was a tragic day at Mamba Sports Academy as the community mourned the loss of founder Kobe Bryant, 41, along with students and teammates Gianna Bryant, 13, and her friend Alyssa Altobelli. The Lady Mavericks basketball team paid tribute to the trio ahead of the Mamba Cup tournament at noon on Saturday, Jan. 26. The in-uniform teens can be seen kneeling and huddling with their heads down on the basketball court in the heart wrenching photos obtained by CNN which you can see here. In another photo, the girls can be seen hugging each other, as others around them appear somber or with their heads down. Both Gianna and Alyssa were scheduled to compete in the competition this afternoon, taking place at Mamba’s Thousand Oaks facility.
Kobe founded the sports academy — which has locations in both Thousand Oaks and Redondo Beach — back in 2018. The school was named for Kobe’s moniker, “Black Mamba,” which was an alter-ego he created for himself on the basketball court. “Sports Academy has perfected the art and science of athletic training, from elite players to young kids getting started,” Kobe said in a press release at the time, referencing the existing school he took over. “MAMBA Sports Academy is a natural expansion of my commitment to educating and empowering the next generation of kids through sports.” Kobe, who has been a strong advocate for the WNBA, also acted as coach to Gianna’s team.
The retired NBA legend was one of nine people who lost their lives in the fatal helicopter crash, along with Gianna, Alyssa, and Alyssa’s parents, baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, and Keri Altobelli. The names of the other passengers on board have yet to be identified, and authorities confirmed that it was clear there no survivors after reaching the crash site. The helicopter reportedly went down around 10:00 a.m. PT in the Calabasas area, and photos of the horrifying wreckage show debris and clouds of smoke circulating the area. Upon crashing, the helicopter caused a bushfire that made it difficult for emergency personnel to get to the exact location.
Video of an interview that Kobe and Gianna did together in May 2019 with a local CBS station has been circulating, and shows just how close the pairs bond was. “It would mean everything [to join the WNBA],” Gigi told the cameras, noting that her favorite WNBA stars were Las Vegas Aces A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young.