Kobe Bryant tragically passed away at the age of 41 on Sunday, Jan. 26. He had been on his way to a basketball tournament with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna when their helicopter crashed and caught fire on a hillside. Gianna died with her father in the accident that also claimed the lives of seven others.
The news of Bryant’s death stunned the world. But what makes it even more shocking and heartbreaking is the reason Bryant began relying on helicopters in the first place.
Kobe Bryant at an event in 2017 | Harry How/Getty Images
Why Kobe Bryant relied on private helicopters
In a 2018 interview on the Barstool Sports podcast The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat, Bryant detailed his reason for using helicopters. He said he flew them around the Los Angeles area so he could maximize his time with his four daughters and spend less of it in the notorious L.A. traffic.
His schedule had become really busy when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he found that using helicopters to commute to and from practice shaved off time and allowed him to drop off and pick up his kids from school.
“Traffic started getting really, really bad,” Bryant said. “And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play because I was sitting in traffic and these things kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”
“So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started,” he continued.
Bryant added that his wife, Vanessa, offered to pick the kids up, but he refused. “I’m like, ‘No, no, no, I want to do that,’ because, like, you have road trips and times where you don’t see your kids, you know,” he added. “So every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in a car, like, I want that.”
Bryant speaks on his use of helicopters around the 36:30 mark
Kobe Bryant also told GQ that helicopters helped him in his career
Bryant also talked about his use of helicopters in a 2010 interview with GQ. According to writer J. R. Moehringer, Bryant told him that choppers helped him feel “fresh” on the court and kept him in shape. An excerpt from the profile piece reads:
“But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.”
Bryant went on to retire in 2016 after spending his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was just settling into the next phase in his life when he died tragically in the helicopter crash.