This year we remember Kobe Bryant on the now annual Kobe Bryant Day, also known as Mamba Day. The special day will happen each year on August 24 — a day set by his numbers on the basketball court: 8 and 24.
Learn all about Mamba Day and the history of Kobe Bryant, a man that defined basketball during his years on the court, inspired countless others, and became a cultural icon when we needed one.
Kobe Bryant, remembered for his basketball moniker of Black Mamba, isn’t only commemorated for the icon he was on the court but also as a person. Even before his death, Los Angeles had declared August 24 as Kobe Bryant Day following his retirement from basketball in 2016. He is also recognized for his philanthropy by the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of families in need and encouraging young people to stay active by participating in sports. Further acknowledgements come from the annual LA HomeWalk, Make-A-Wish, NBA Cares, After-School All-Stars, and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
It wouldn’t be until after his death in the early days of 2020 that the Orange County Board of Supervisors would vote unanimously for August 24 to officially be known as Kobe Bryant or “Mamba” Day.
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Kobe Bean Bryant was born to a former NBA player and his wife, Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant, on August 23, 1978. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but didn’t stay there for long.
When he was six years old, Kobe’s father retired from the NBA and moved him and his family to Italy to be able to continue his basketball career at a lower professional level. Kobe himself had started playing when he was only three and quickly fit into this new lifestyle change since it still meant being steeped in a life that centered around the game.
As he grew up, the Los Angeles Lakers became his favorite team, and he would study their NBA games. He would also fly back to the United States to play in basketball summer leagues each year.
Bryant decided to opt out of college and was eligible for the NBA draft as soon as he had graduated from high school at 17 years old. He was the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. Bryant started his career in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach, CA, scoring again and again and finishing with an average of 24.5 points and 5.3 rebounds during the four league games. It was shortly after this that he was traded to the Lakers and began unwittingly creating his legacy on the team. He would become the second youngest NBA player in history with the start of the ’96-’97 season.
He quickly proved his worth to the team and, during his second season with the Lakers, was selected for the NBA All-Star Game, becoming the youngest all-star player to date and starting his climb to the top of the annals of basketball. He had to share the role of the Lakers’ star player with his talented teammate and another basketball icon, Shaquille O’Neal — eventually creating an amazingly effective combination of shooting guard and center that would help the Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships all by the time Bryant was 23 years old.
Even after O’Neal left in 2004, Bryant continued to be an ace at the game, continuously topping the league scoring charts and toppling marks in NBA history. In 2008, Bryant was named the Most Valuable Player in the NBA and again carried his team to the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2009.
Nobody could argue about the national impact that Kobe Bryant had on the U.S. He wasn’t just an iconic basketball player. He was also well known for his philanthropy, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant the wishes of over 250 terminally ill children. He worked to raise more than $81 million for Stand Up to Cancer and was even named an honorary ambassador for the After-School All-Stars program. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, continues to work in his name, providing services for homeless children in Los Angeles through the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, along with donating almost $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
His reach also extended beyond the borders of the United States. He was lauded for his part in strengthening U.S. and Chinese relationships through his visits to China for his fans there. Once he had gone on to win his fourth NBA championship in 2009, he traveled to China for the fourth time and set up the Kobe Bryant China Fund — partnering with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation to support devastation reconstruction projects and promote sports activities for children in the country.
Kobe Bryant died on January 26, 2020, when he and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, took a helicopter ride with six other family friends to go to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy based in Thousand Oaks, CA. Most of the other air traffic was grounded due to rain and fog that day, which is part of the reason why, at 9:45 AM, the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, CA. All of its passengers and the pilot died on impact. Kobe Bryant was only 41, and his daughter was only 13 years old.
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Bryant had an impact across so many different areas of athletics, inspiring many and furthering this through his partnership with the exercise and sports brand Nike. Bryant worked with Nike for many years to engineer basketball footwear. Nike continues to honor this partnership even after his death by reviving 11 signature shoes from old Kobe lines and by donating 100% of its net proceeds each year from the sales of the Gigi Bryant sneakers, sending the money to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Mamba Day isn’t only about remembering Kobe Bryant’s career as a basketball player but also his impact on fans of basketball around the world, his acts of philanthropy for thousands in need, and the loss of his daughter’s talent as his basketball legacy. This year, on August 24, take some time to remember the basketball star and his family, as well as the loss of a national icon.