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Let's Not Make the Helicopter Crash Just About Kobe Bryant

A fan pays respects at a mural depicting Kobe Bryant in a downtown Los Angeles alley after word of the Lakers star's death in a helicopter crash, in downtown Los Angeles Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)

Most of us were shocked at the news that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter on Sunday. I don’t even watch basketball and the tragedy of the incident wasn’t lost on me.

It is undeniable that Bryant’s involvement in the crash made it a national story, and that’s why it received the coverage it did. Aside from his status as a basketball star, he had a wife and four daughters—one of whom is only seven months old and will never remember her father. That was heartbreaking enough. But, as details started coming out, for me, it became far less about Kobe Bryant, and more about the others involved. First, was the confirmation that his daughter Gianna was on board. His family had not only lost a husband/father but a daughter/sister. Early reports suggested that there were only four people on the plane, but, as it turned out, there were nine, including the Bryants:

  • Alyssa Altobelli, a teammate of Gianni’s, was also on board with her two parents, John and Keri Altobelli. They are survived by two other children, a son and daughter, who now must cope with losing both their parents and their sister.
  • Payton Chester, another teammate of Gianni’s, was on the helicopter as well. She was on board with her mother Sarah, who is survived by her husband and two sons.
  • Christina Mauser, the top assistant coach of the Mamba girls’ basketball team, is survived by a husband, and two young children.
  • Finally, there’s the pilot, Ara Zobayan. He was reportedly married.

Lots of people had their world’s shattered on Sunday. Yet, months, if not weeks from now, the only names most people will remember in connection to the crash are Kobe and Gianna Bryant. On Monday, CNN reported that memorials honoring Kobe and Gianna were popping up all over the world. I can’t deny the cultural significance of his death because he was a celebrity, but the Bryants were not the only people on board that ill-fated helicopter.

Eventually, this story will fade away, and people will move on with their lives, and the other victims I mentioned will be forgotten when people talk about the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Even she will likely become a footnote.

But, Kobe Bryant was one of nine people who died. He may be the reason the crash was a national story instead of a local story, but we shouldn’t let his celebrity overshadow the fact that other families got shattered that day. Two kids lost both their parents and their sister. I know when I recall this crash in the future, it’s them I’ll think about first. I may not remember their names, but I’ll think about all of them equally.

This incident was a tragedy for multiple families. To me, Kobe Bryant isn’t any more important than the others who perished with him.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis