Mavericks Retire No. 24 After Kobe Bryant and His Daughter Gianna Die in Helicopter Crash. The Bryants were on their way to one of Gianna’s basketball games Sunday morning when the helicopter they were on crashed in the hills above Calabasas, killing them and seven others. Gianna, 13, besides being an up-and-coming player, had been a steady presence with her dad at NBA games recently. Here she is with Luka Doncic (one of her favorite players) after a Mavs-Lakers game, which featured Kobe talking trash in Slovenian to the reigning Rookie of the Year. The Mavs released a statement saying that “Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.” (It’s not the first time a team has retired a number for a player that was never on the team; I know that Miami retired Michael Jordan’s No. 23.)
The Mavericks are a key part of Kobe’s highlight reel and he makes numerous appearances in Dirk Nowitzki’s. There was the December 20, 2015 game in which Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters — one more than the entire Mavericks team had up to that point. Most recently, there was the moment when Bryant (on the bench in street clothes) dapped Dirk after he hit a game winner.
To me, personally, the biggest moment was a mostly forgotten game in 2008, not long after the Mavs traded for Jason Kidd. During a Sunday afternoon Dirk-Kobe duel on ABC that ended in a Lakers overtime win, Kobe said something that became a mantra for me for the next decade plus: “I see you, Big German. I see you.”
Bryant has a complicated and at times dark history, no part more so than the rape allegations that resulted in a settlement in a civil case 17 years ago. This is not meant to ignore that. But it is undeniable that there will be a huge hole in the game of basketball with his passing, not just with his absence but that of Gianna, a life that is now all potential that will never be realized.