Kobe Bryant, a former MVP of the National Basketball Association and a five-time NBA champion, is dead at 41, after his helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, who drafted him out of high school in 1996.
Bryant was an All-Star for 18 of those 20 years and won two gold medals for the United States during his time on Team USA before retiring from the league in 2016.
Like his idol Michael Jordan, Bryant quickly became a global ambassador for the game, with a long roster of brands including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike and Adidas. Even though his relationship with Adidas went as far back as his high school days, by the 2002-2003 season, Bryant paid to get out of his Adidas contract and joined Nike in 2003.
During the same year, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a hotel. Even though Bryant settled out of court, McDonald’s and Nutella both cut their ties with him.
By 2008, when Bryant received the league’s award for most valuable player before two championship seasons, his public image seemed strong. In 2010, Bryant signed a deal to endorse Turkish Airlines, signifying Bryant’s position as a global star.
Bryant’s relationship with Nike continued well into his last several seasons with the Lakers. The brand took Bryant’s nickname, the “Black Mamba,” and positioned him as a wise, sage elder of the league, instructing young athletes to follow the ways of the “Mamba Mentality.”
Bryant was an investor in the Los Angeles creative agency, Zambezi, before selling his stake in 2015. He also won an Oscar in 2018 for the short film “Dear Basketball,” which he produced.
Bryant was married to Vanessa Bryant, and has four daughters, Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.