On the morning of January 26, a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California claimed the lives of National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Kobe Bryant and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, as well as seven other passengers: Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan. The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report did not find a cause for the crash, though it stated that the helicopter spiraled and hit the ground at over 184 miles per hour. The incident sparked nationwide mourning as people remembered the Lakers legend, who was one of the most iconic athletes in NBA history.
One fan started an online petition for the NBA to change the silhouette on their logo to Bryant, and it has garnered over 3 million signatures. This would be a big change. The logo has remained virtually unaltered since its creation in 1971 and currently features the silhouette of NBA legend Jerry West.
The grief across the nation was felt at Berkeley High School (BHS) too. Many students to whom Bryant had been an icon and role model shared their feelings around the loss. “I was so saddened by his death, and the death of his daughter impacted me even more I think, because she was such a bright young star,” said senior and longtime fan Deven Beasly. A grief circle was held for students to have a sharing platform. “I saw that a lot of staff members and students were feeling upset,” said Erin Schweng, the principal at BHS. She added that “[The circle] was small, but it seemed like they appreciated it.” Bryant was clearly hugely influential in many lives and is remembered for his heroic legacy. But is it a legacy he deserves?
In 2003, Bryant was under trial for a felony sexual assault charge against a hotel employee. The woman in question’s name and image were publicized, and, under pressure from Bryant’s legal team, she refused to testify. The case was dropped after her refusal to cooperate, but Bryant did issue a public apology. Though it made headlines, Bryant never faced serious public scrutiny.
Bryant undeniably had a great athletic career, which has made it difficult for many to acknowledge his major shortcomings. It’s not easy for fans to hear that he was a rapist, but it’s also not easy for victims of sexual assault to repeatedly hear that he was a great man. Bryant was hugely influential and a very important part of many people’s lives. However, it seems wrong to distort the memory of Bryant and for the NBA to adopt the logo of such a controversial figure. After major recent progress on how our society holds those accused of sexual assault accountable, it’s disappointing for many that Bryant is only remembered for his celebrity.