Kobe Bryant’s shocking death forced major TV news and sports outlets to scramble on Sunday to cover the helicopter crash in Southern California that took the life of the legendary basketball star and to put Bryant’s life and sports career in perspective.
From the BBC to Fox News, Bryant’s death dominated coverage as soon as word surfaced via TMZ around 11:50 a.m. PT. The news broke as ESPN was in the midst of its NFL Pro Bowl telecast. The sports powerhouse broke into coverage for the somber bulletin around 12 p.m. PT but then returned to the game. ESPN 2 scrapped its regular schedule to present news about the crash and tributes to the famed Los Angeles Laker who retired after 20 seasons in the NBA in 2016.
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“Kobe Bryant was a transcendent figure in this league and as popular a player as we’ve had since Michael Jordan,” said Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s senior NBA insider, told ESPN 2.
Bryant’s history as a player and the criticism he faced at times from colleagues for his style of play was analyzed and debated among commentators. But sports analysts agreed that his eye-popping skills stood out more than anything. Commentators noted the eerie timing of Bryant’s death, coming less than 24 hours after current Laker star LeBron James passed his predecessor on the list of the NBA’s all-time points leader.
“Kobe had a magnetic personality for someone who came right out of high school to NBA superstardom,” NBC Sports analyst Mike Tirico told MSNBC.
After his retirement, Bryant leaned in to TV, films, documentaries, books and other media in a way that kept him relevant in sports and pop culture overall. He was part of the team that won an Academy Award in 2018 for animated short film for “Dear Basketball,” based on the letter he wrote in 2015 announcing his retirement from the league. He was also sought-after for endorsement deals.
“Young players everywhere in the world emulated him,” Wojnarowski said. “His ability to sell sneakers and to market products — he started to transcend basketball in his post-playing career.”
CNN and other news outlets also focused on piecing together the details of the helicopter crash in the foggy hills over Calabasas, Calif. There were unconfirmed reports that other members of Bryant’s family were among the five people killed in the crash.
CNN put politics and the Trump impeachment trial on pause for wall-to-wall Bryant coverage in the hours after his death. Leaders of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa., where Bryant emerged as a budding superstar in the 1990s prior to joining the NBA, gave an impromptu press conference Sunday that was carried live by CNN and other outlets.
More to come…
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