Newsletter: Essential California: L.A. mourns Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant in 2013.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Jan. 27, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Shock and grief coursed through Los Angeles and reverberated across the globe, as news broke that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed in a Calabasas helicopter crash on Sunday morning.

[Read the story: “Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna among 9 dead in helicopter crash; L.A. in mourning” in the Los Angeles Times]

The stunning death of one of basketball’s greatest players turned local landmarks into impromptu memorials. At the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the crowd was packed with Bryant jerseys. Outside the Staples Center — where official flags were lowered to half-staff, but Lakers flags were waved high — thousands of mourners converged at L.A. Live, while music’s elite filed into the Grammy Awards in the arena.

Public figures, former teammates and fans alike joined in the mourning, with many taking to social media to pay their respects.


“Particularly when he was young, to be a part of his life and to watch his career grow, watch him grow, this is one of the most tragic days of my life,” said fellow Lakers legend Jerry West, who was the team’s general manager in 1996 and maneuvered Bryant’s immediate trade to the team when he was drafted.

West’s words echoed the grief of Bryant’s adopted city — where older generations had watched Bryant come of age and into greatness, and the younger ones had always known him as a legend. Bryant was not yet a legal adult when he was drafted by the Lakers in 1996, and he played his entire two-decade career in Los Angeles.

Sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote that a “huge hole has been cut out of Los Angeles’ heart, and the wound is breathtaking.”

“Kobe was your childhood hero. He was your adult icon,” Plaschke continued. “For 20 years he was on posters in your bedroom, on the television in your living room, in the lunch talk in your school cafeteria, in the smack talk at your office water cooler, and ultimately riding on a truck down Figueroa Street while you cheered and bragged and bathed in his greatness.”

His was a career that reached the highest of athletic heights and was also tarnished by the worst of personal scandals, as sports columnist Dylan Hernández put it: “Whatever his faults, he was Los Angeles sports. He still is.”

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and his 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who played on the club team with Bryant’s daughter, were also among the victims.

More Kobe Bryant coverage from The Times and beyond:

  • “How can Kobe Bryant be gone?” Sports columnist Bill Plaschke on how Bryant’s legend wasn’t supposed to end this way. Los Angeles Times
  • “Did you hear?” The public grieves for Kobe Bryant, from Trader Joe’s to Staples Center. Los Angeles Times
  • “I am straight up in tears right now.” Why Kobe Bryant’s death hurts so much. LAist
  • Gianna Bryant was a basketball star in making. The 13-year-old wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. Los Angeles Times
  • And from the archives: Every shot Kobe Bryant ever took. All 30,699 of them. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Health officials have confirmed the first two cases of the new strain of coronavirus in Los Angeles and Orange counties, brought by travelers who came from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. Two other cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., one in Washington state and one in Chicago. Los Angeles Times

Billie Eilish made history at the 2020 Grammys, sweeping all four major categories. The L.A. teen became the second artist ever to win Grammys for song, record, album and best new artist in one year. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The full list of 2020 Grammy winners. Los Angeles Times

Alicia Keys and Dua Lipa present Billie Eilish an award on stage at the 62nd Grammy Awards.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)


Malibu wants to ban overnight parking on Pacific Coast Highway. Will the state allow it? Los Angeles Times

Netflix turns to first-time filmmakers for an edge in streaming wars. Last year, Netflix released 19 original movies from first-time directors on its streaming platform; another 11 have already been announced for 2020. Los Angeles Times

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Are you an independent voter? You can’t vote in the California GOP primary. The limit on participation is one imposed by the GOP‘s state and national leaders. Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration is suing California over its private prison ban. The administration argues a new state law that bans for-profit prison contracts unconstitutionally interferes with the federal prison and immigration detention systems. Los Angeles Times

Thousands of antiabortion activists marched in San Francisco, a day after the Trump administration warned California that it must stop requiring health insurance plans in the state to provide abortion coverage or risk losing federal money. Mercury News

Former Gov. Jerry Brown wants to know who is trying to sell his father’s memorabilia related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Private letters and other items that had belonged to Pat Brown when he was governor are being offered by Sotheby’s, with an anonymous seller. Los Angeles Times


Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes has reportedly lost her lawyers in her civil case over payment issues. “Her lawyers in the Arizona case quit in September, saying she hasn’t paid them.” Bloomberg


The eight-year project to dismantle the San Onofre nuclear plant is about to begin. This comes seven years after the plant officially went offline. San Diego Union-Tribune


Vape shops are scrambling ahead of San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation ban on e-cigarette sales, which is scheduled to take effect this week. San Francisco Chronicle

Job growth slowed nationwide last year, but it accelerated in California as the state notched a record 118-month employment expansion. Los Angeles Times

“American Dirt” was supposed to be a publishing triumph. What went wrong? The migration novel was poised to be a blockbuster long before copies arrived in bookstores last week, with its coveted selection for Oprah’s Book Club and massive buzz. But it’s now at the center of the year’s first bonafide literary controversy and is forcing a hard reflection on the state of Latinos in a cultural field that remains overwhelmingly white. Los Angeles Times

See also: “American Dirt” is what happens when Latinos are shut out of the book industry: “What made me cringe was immediately realizing that this book was not written for people like me, for immigrants. It was written for everyone else — to enchant them, take them on a wild border-crossing ride, make them feel all fuzzy inside about the immigrant plight.” Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 75. San Diego: sunny, 68. San Francisco: partly sunny, 57. San Jose: sunny, 62. Sacramento: partly sunny, 63. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Rep. Linda Sanchez (Jan. 28, 1969), Oprah Winfrey (Jan. 29, 1954), composer Philip Glass (Jan. 31, 1937), X singer Exene Cervenka (Feb. 1, 1956) and media mogul Barry Diller (Feb. 2, 1942).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.