Many photographs were taken of Kobe Bryant throughout his remarkable life, from action shots on the basketball court to happy family photographs snapped with his wife and four young daughters.
But it could well be that Kobe’s final photo was a blurry selfie taken by an excitable fan, just one day before he, his daughter Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
The photograph was taken by Brady Smigiel, 13, who had been playing in a tournament at Kobe’s Mamba Academy alongside his twin brother. The boys were keen to see Kobe before the games, and even asked their mother if they could drive past by Kobe’s gate in Newport Beach, just in case they spotted him.
Brady’s mum, Dionne Reich Smigiel, told CNN:
They are both obsessed with basketball and big fans of Kobe. Brady was writing to our ‘family text’ group all day.
When we are in Newport Beach, Brady makes me drive by Kobe’s gate just in hopes he might be driving out at the same time.
That very same day, Gigi’s team, the Lady Mambas, had also been competing in the Mamba Cup, with Kobe there to coach them. Gigi’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester also died in the crash.
Following the Lady Mambas’ first game, which they lost 46-29 to Cyfair Nikecoop 2024, Brady took his chance and approached Kobe for a selfie.
Dionne told CNN:
He said Kobe was ‘mad they lost’ and wouldn’t take a pic but gave him knuckles.
Following Gigi’s second game of the day, Kobe was in far better spirits, with the Lady Mambas having won against the Tree of Hope Lloyd team.
This time around, Brady was able to get his much longed for selfie, although it was a little blurry. According to Dionne, Kobe had promised they would take a better one together the next day. Tragically, it was never to be.
Dionne has since told CNN about her family’s shock in the wake of the recent tragedy:
We are struggling. Kobe was such a presence in our little community of Newbury Park. My boys don’t know how to process this.
I woke up on Sunday and heard there was a helicopter crash in Calabasas and said to my family, ‘Oh my gosh, a helicopter just went down at the same time Kobe is supposed to arrive in Camarillo. Pray it’s not him and Gigi’. Then an hour later we got the news. It’s just all so sad.
Although this isn’t the clearest or most professional shot by any means, the sheer joy on Brady’s face upon meeting his idol beautifully illustrates just how much Kobe meant to budding basketball players at the Mamba Academy.
Our thoughts are with all the families who have lost loved ones in the recent helicopter crash.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.