LOS ANGELES >> The Southern California Sports Academy, previously co-owned by Kobe Bryant, has discontinued its nickname “Mamba” and rebranded itself in a helicopter crash nearly four months after the basketball icon’s death.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed on January 26 when they flew to a basketball tournament at Mamba Sports Academy.
The Thousand Oaks-based facility said it would revert to its original Sports Academy name. It was founded in 2016. Bryant, who spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and helped the franchise win five NBA championships, joined in 2018.
Games were played at the academy when news of Bryant’s death became known. Players immediately stopped, and many people at the gym burst into tears when they were told Bryant was on board the helicopter that crashed.
The academy is being considered as the home of an NBA minor league program that will provide a year of preparation both on and off the pitch for elite players who have chosen to bypass university but are not yet eligible for the NBA draw.
Bryant is the only NBA player whose team has withdrawn two numbers in his honor. He was selected for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last month. A ceremony is scheduled for late August, but may be delayed until at least October due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bryant’s production company, Granity Studios, has remained active since his death. The latest children’s book released last month by Bryant’s company – ‘The Wizenard Series: Season One’ – became his fifth book to reach No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller lists.
The helicopter crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
In February, Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, filed the estate of pilot Ara Zobayan and the charter company that owned the helicopter, Island Express. She claimed that Zobayan had “not used ordinary care in operating the aircraft in question” and alleged negligence.
On Friday, Zobayan’s brother, Berge Zobayan, said in court that Kobe Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and that his survivors are not entitled to compensation from the pilot’s estate, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Vanessa Bryant filed a claim last week – a precursor to a lawsuit – against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after delegates were charged with sharing unauthorized photos of the crash site. The claim was first reported by People; the investigation of the photos of the delegates was initially published by the Times.
Crash survivors Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton filed a complaint against the pilot’s helicopter company and estate on Monday. Families of other victims have previously filed lawsuits.