On August 24, Orange County officially celebrated Kobe Bryant Day, recognizing the late Lakers legend, as well as Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa who were among the nine killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The date, 8/24, was selected in honor of Bryant’s jersey numbers and comes just one day after what would have been his 42nd birthday.
The date was originally designated to honor Bryant in Los Angeles back in 2016 following the Lakers’ legends retirement. On Aug. 11, the Orange County Board of Supervisors declared that Aug. 24 would officially recognizing Bryant – who lived in Newport Beach at the time of his death - as a “beloved member of our community,” according to the resolution written by OC Supervisor Michelle Steel. Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the Altobellis were specifically named in the resolution, along with Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and Ara Zobayan.
OCC sports information director Tony Altobelli believes his brother, John, and the Laker legend now share not only a day of honor, but also a similar legacy.
“I think there is a similarity between Kobe in his stature in the NBA, and John in an obviously smaller way but in the same kind of stature at the community college baseball level,” Tony Altobelli said.
Tributes for Bryant poured in on both his birthday and day of honor. Before the Lakers game four matchup Monday evening against the Portland Trail Blazers, it was announced that the team would wear the “Black Mamba” jerseys designed by Bryant. The jersey’s design includes a snake print theme and a special patch honoring Gianna Bryant.
During the Dodgers contest Sunday, the team wore Lakers jerseys donning Bryant’s signature numbers 8 and 24 during pregame. When the pitchers took to the mound, they did so upon a bump that included both Gianna’s and Kobe’s signature numbers. Coincidentally, Dodgers star Cody Bellinger, who described being “star struck” when he met Bryant in 2018, hit his eighth home run that also marked his 24th of the season.
Bryant became a global figure during his basketball career, and while John Altobelli’s notoriety may have been less, it didn’t discredit the impact and records he left behind.
John Altobelli and Bryant shared a vision when it came to coaching, wanting the best out of their players at any level.
“I definitely think there was a kinship with that, those two were definitely cut from the same cloth when it comes to that sort of coaching spirit,” Tony Altobelli said. “John would do whatever it took to get his players to buy into what they were trying to accomplish, and if that meant bring Kobe in to light a fire, that was what he was going to do.”