Nine people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, were killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. on Jan. 26, 2020. Below are their stories.
– John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli
John Altobelli, 56, was one of the most successful junior college baseball coaches in the country, leading Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, to more than 700 victories over 27 seasons. His 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was a basketball teammate of Gianna Bryant, and wife Keri also was in the helicopter when it crashed.
John and Keri Altobelli are survived by a son, J.J., and daughter Lexi, according to Orange Coast College.
– Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, who went by Gigi, was a budding basketball talent, and she and her father were on their way to a basketball tournament in which he was coaching and she playing when the helicopter they were flying in crashed Sunday. Kobe Bryant credited Gigi for rekindling his love for basketball after his retirement.
“Before Gigi got into basketball, I hardly watched it, but now that she’s into basketball, we watch every night,” Bryant told former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the Showtime Basketball podcast “All the Smoke.”
– Kobe Bryant
Bryant, 41, was one of the NBA’s biggest stars from the time he entered the league as an 18-year-old in 1996. Over his 20-year career, he was named an NBA all-star 18 times and helped the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships, earning NBA Finals MVP honors twice and league MVP honors once, in 2007-08. Bryant averaged 24.99 points per game over his career, ranking 12th all time, and his 33,643 career points rank fourth. After retiring in 2016, Bryant focused on his business interests, and in 2018 he became the first professional athlete to win an Academy Award for “Dear Basketball,” an animated short film he wrote and narrated.
– Payton and Sarah Chester
Payton Chester, a student at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, California, played for the Mambas girls’ basketball team alongside Gianna Bryant and Alyssa Altobelli. Her mother, Sarah, was traveling to the tournament with her daughter.
Payton Chester previously attended Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar, California. Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View, recalled the Chester family’s “huge impact” on the school in a Facebook post early Monday, calling them “genuine, kind-hearted, and caring.”
– Christina Mauser
Mauser was one of Bryant’s assistant coaches for the Mamba girls’ basketball team.
“She was extraordinary,” Matt Mauser, Christina Mauser’s husband, said in an interview Monday morning on the “Today” show. “She was incredibly witty, funny, funny like nobody you’ve ever met. . . . She was warm, she was incredibly bright, she was technologically incredibly savvy. She could figure out anything.”
Mauser, a mother of three children, previously had worked at Harbor Day School and coached the eighth grade girls’ basketball team to its first championship, the Los Angeles Times reported. Bryant leaned on Mauser because of her expertise developing zone defenses.
“He saw what an amazing mind she had for basketball,” Matt Mauser said Monday. “They called her the ‘Mother of Defense,’ MOD. It was a family. They all really cared about each other.”
– Ara Zobayan
The pilot of the helicopter taught other aspiring pilots how to fly “and was very much loved in the aviation community,” Christina Pascucci of KTLA-TV – herself a licensed pilot – tweeted Sunday night.
A flight student of Zobayan’s, Darren Kemp, told the Los Angeles Times that he was considered Bryant’s “private pilot.”
“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” Kemp said.
Zobayan was an “amazing person and an amazing pilot,” Margaret Bray, a restaurant owner on Santa Catalina Island who had flown many times with him, told the Orange County Register.