Kobe Bryant: One Year Gone

‘I Promise You I’ll Continue Your Legacy’ – Lebron James



Kobe Bryant
August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020


It has been a year since the world of sports tragically lost one of the greatest athletes of all time. On the year anniversary of this beloved athlete’s tragic passing, we have decided to celebrate his legacy through photos and thoughts shared by his fellow athletes. Kobe Bryant was not just a talented and well-respected sports hero with an impressive long-standing career, but a husband, loving father, devoted mentor, author, and Oscar winner (watch ‘Dear Basketball’ short film at the end of this paragraph) This article will give you an exclusive inside look at what it was like to shadow The Black Mamba through the longtime official NBA photographer, Jesse Garabrant, responsible for capturing Kobe Bryant’s career in basketball with some never before seen photos. Jesse, a family friend, was kind enough to give us permission to publish these amazing photos, to which we are grateful.


Dear Basketball by Kobe Bryant

Dear Basketball is a 2017 American animated film written and narrated by Kobe Bryant.
The film is based on a letter Bryant wrote for The Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015, announcing his retirement.


“Number 33, 6’6” from Lower Merion High School…” 


Last August, Orange County officials declared August 24th “Kobe Bryant Day.” On January 26, 2020, the world stopped as we knew it and the news of Kobe Bryant’s death along with his daughter, Gianna, shook not only a nation, but our school. He was much more than one of the greatest basketball players to ever take the court, he had his two jerseys, numbers 8 and number 24, retired from the Los Angeles Lakers along with other NBA teams following suit.


Kobe Bryant
© Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE

‘I Promise You I’ll Continue Your Legacy’ – Lebron James

But Kobe was a family man first, a devoted husband, loving father, trusted friend, mentor to children, fearless leader, and a fierce competitor. Not to mention, he was also a two-time gold medal Olympic athlete, Academy Award winner, and author. One could only imagine what he could have achieved if only given more time.


Lebron James and Kobe Bryant Celebrate Their Gold Medals at the 2008 Olympics
© Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE


I haven’t spoken a lot about Kobe because let’s face it, I’m not the most graceful athlete and I’m not on the basketball team, but Kobe was loved by so many on and off the court and respected by all types of people. Since the mid-1990s, my mom’s childhood friend, Jesse Garrabrant, has been the official NBA photographer assigned to many professional ballplayers, specifically Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and the list goes on.


LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at 2008 Olympics
© Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE


Jesse made a career of traveling around the world, to all the games, the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, you name it, and Jesse was there shadowing the greatest players of all time. Because of this, he was given the privilege to document behind-the-scene moments giving the world a glimpse of inside the private inner sanctum. Most you have probably seen for yourself many of Jesse’s photos gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated and featured on ESPN.


MVP Kobe Bryant at NBA All-Star Game
© Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE


When I first heard word of “Kobe Bryant Day,” I asked my mom to reach out to Jesse and asked for permission to share this story, and share some of his own personal private photographs that were special to him and his time documenting some of Kobe’s most proud moments. I knew this was a sensitive ask because when you spend months on end with someone day after day, you form a bond and friendship that is so special you naturally want to preserve and protect it. But knowing that this was for our junior high school paper, Jesse obliged, in which I’m forever grateful.


Kobe Bryant celebrating with daughter after 2010 Lakers NBA Championship win
© Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE


“I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands. And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important. And that’s the Kobe I’ll remember.” – Derek Jeter


Kobe and Jesse

For years, even though I don’t know very much about basketball, every morning, I would skim through my mom’s Facebook and hurry to see what photos Jesse posted. They were always so cool and made me feel as though I was right there in the locker room or on the court somewhere around the world with them. His action shots are so impressive and some of the most featured syndicated throughout the world. It would not be surprising if you recognized quite a few of them.


Kobe Bryant with Gold Medal and Jesse Garrabrant at Olympics
Photo courtesy of Jesse Garrabrant


I hope you enjoy looking through these photographs as much as I do. I specifically picked ones where I felt that Jesse captured everything that was so special about Kobe and how essential he was. The photos that best highlighted him on the court, with his teammates, his passion, dedication, and most of all his love for the sport. 


Jesse Garrabrant with NBA Gold Medalist, Lebron James
Photo courtesy of Jesse Garrabrant


Mr. Garrabrant, on behalf of the students at D. Russell Parks Middle School in Fullerton, California, thank you for allowing us students an inside look into your world, the players, and most of all, our hometown hero, Kobe Bryant. It has given us the unique opportunity to celebrate someone who not only means so much to us, but had a great impact on the lives of many. #MambaForever


Thank you, Kobe. Mamba Out.


Kobe Bryant exits the Los Angeles Lakers court at the Staples Center
All photos have been used with permission courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant and the NBAE.