Remembering Kobe Bryant's final appearance at Staples Center

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 29: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovs

Wednesday marks two years since Kobe and Gianna Bryant attended their final NBA game at the arena formerly called Staples Center, also known as "The House that Kobe Built."

On Dec. 29, 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers were victorious in their game against the Dallas Mavericks, winning 108-95, as Kobe and Gianna sat courtside. In honor of the Lakers legend, the Men in Purple and Gold went on to win the 2020 NBA Finals months after Bryant’s death in an unprecedented season that included the coronavirus pandemic that caused a temporary halt to all professional sports and a social justice movement.

Determined to carry her father’s basketball legacy, Gigi also fell in love with the game of basketball. According to Rob Pelinka, the two were in attendance, so she could watch one of her favorite players, Luka Doncic. She aspired to play college hoops at UConn going to the WNBA. 

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The two were among the nine victims, including Gigi’s teammates and their parents, who were aboard a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter on a foggy morning in Southern California on Jan. 26, 2020. The doomed helicopter crashed into the Santa Monica Mountains in Calabasas. There were no survivors.

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The team, coached by Kobe, was set to play in a basketball tournament that day. Coincidentally, the team they were set to face was coached by retired NBA star Jason Terry. 

Staples Center was officially rebranded as the Arena on Christmas Day, but for many Angelenos, Staples Center will always be associated with Bryant who remained loyal and played all 20 seasons of his NBA career with the Lakers.

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Bryant’s Mamba Mentality and lethal on-court skills were instrumental in leading the Lakers to five NBA championships.

In the final game of his career, Bryant dropped a historic 60 points in 2016 and a decade prior, he scored 81 points in a masterful performance against Toronto.

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Staples Center would also host Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony as well as his Celebration of Life. 

He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in May. His wife, Vanessa, gave an emotional speech in his honor.

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After he retired from the NBA, Bryant was focused on spending more time with his family and building his media empire at Granity Studios.

Their legacies and love for sports live on through the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to make a "positive impact through sports" for underserved communities. 

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