Memorial Set For Kobe and Gianna Bryant

Nearly three weeks following the untimely and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, Vanessa Bryant announced via Instagram that there will be a Celebration of Life for her husband and daughter on Feb. 24. Mrs. Bryant explained the significance in the date (2.24.20) of the service: the No. 2 for Gianna’s jersey number, No. 24 for Kobe’s jersey number, and 20 for the years Kobe Bryant spent with the Los Angeles Lakers and also the number of years the two spent together as a couple.

On Jan. 26, the helicopter in which Mr. Bryant, his daughter, her teammates, coaches’ and family were traveling on to attend a tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy crashed into the hillsides of Calabasas, Calif., killing all of the passengers and the pilot on impact.  The official cause of death for all nine victims was blunt force trauma caused by an accident. The bodies of the victims were returned to the families last week and memorial and funeral preparations were able to take place.

The Nine Victims

Kobe Bryant, 41

Kobe Bryant was arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He spent 20 years including more than half of his life playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and was an 18-time NBA All-Star, won five NBA titles with the Lakers, and was a two-time Olympic Medalist for the United States. He was married for 19 years to Vanessa Bryant and together they had four daughters. After retirement, Kobe pursued several different avenues, including winning an Academy Award for the documentary “Dear Basketball,” publishing the first book in what was supposed to be a series, and building the Mamba Sports Academy where he was a coach for Gianna’s basketball team.

Gianna Bryant, 13 

Gianna, known by those who loved her as Gigi, was the second oldest daughter of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant and was actively following in her father’s basketball sensation footsteps. They shared a bond over their mutual love and passion for the game. Gianna’s plans were to attend the University of Connecticut to play on the women’s basketball team and then to play in the WNBA. She inherited his “Mamba Mentality” and he referred to her as his “Mambacita.”  

The Altobelli Family: John, 56; Kerri, 46; Alyssa, 13 

John, Kerri, and Alyssa Altobelli were traveling with Bryant to a tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy on the morning of the accident. Their daughter, Alyssa, was on the same team as Gianna. John Altobelli was the baseball coach at Orange Coast College and was the longest-tenured coach in school history with 27 years under his belt. He took his teams to four state community college championships and recorded more than 700 victories. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him the National Coach of the Year in 2019. The Altobelli family is survived by a son and daughter. Their memorial services were held on Feb. 10 at the Los Angeles Angels baseball stadium in Anaheim, Calif.

Sarah Chester, 45 and Payton Chester, 13

Sarah Chester graduated from Whittier College and was the mother to three, including Payton, whose game she was attending on that fateful day, and 16-year-old twin boys. Payton went to school at Harbor View Day School with Gianna from kindergarten to fifth grade and was on the same club team as Gianna and Alyssa. She was enrolled at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, and that is where the mother and daughter’s memorial service was held on Feb. 8.

Christina Mauser, 38

Christina Mauser was the top assistant coach of Gianna, Alyssa, and Payton’s team at the Mamba Sports Academy. Kobe hand-picked Mauser as his assistant coach. Both Matt Mauser and his wife taught school at Harbor Day School, the school Gianna Bryant attended, and the husband and wife team were also the school’s basketball coaches before she became the assistant coach at the academy.  Mauser is survived by her husband and three children (ages three, nine, and 11). Mrs. Mauser’s memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 16 at Edison High School, the school she attended.

Ara Zobayan, 50

Ara Zobayan was the pilot of the helicopter on the cloudy and foggy Sunday morning the crash occurred. Zobayan was Bryant’s personal private pilot and was also a flight instructor who knew the topography and weather patterns of the Los Angeles Basin. Zobayan was also certified to fly solely using instruments and had recorded over 8,200 hours of flight time. The details of a funeral or memorial service for Zobayan are unknown.

The nine victims will also be honored at the Celebration of Kobe and Gianna’s Life on the 24th of this month at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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