The Mamba Sports Academy is no more. The institution started by the late Kobe Bryant will live on, but the powers-that-be have decided that to continue using “Mamba” in the title would be a possible afront to the NBA star, preferring to drop the word to show respect for Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, both of whom were killed in a helicopter crash this past January. The academy announced the change via social media today, explaining that the name going forward will simply be “Sports Academy.”
The Mamba Sports Academy Legacy
The Mamba Sports Academy got its start in 2018, a joint venture launched by Bryant and the CEO of Sports Academy, Chad Faulkner. It had been rebranded that year after Bryant became involved, expanding on the facility’s vision of offering a top-of-the-line athletic solution for underprivileged children. Bryant had previously assumed the nickname the Black Mamba, then choosing it to be used as part of the academy’s name.
In announcing the change on Twitter, the Sports Academy explained, “Like tens of millions of fans around the globe, Sports Academy’s world drastically changed on January 26. With respect for an unparalleled legacy, the Academy will retire the ‘Mamba’ in the Mamba Sports Academy name — to raise it to the rafters, where it belongs. Sports Academy will carry on the vision it curated during that special partnership,” the statement read. A website rebranding is expected.”
It added, “What (Mamba Sports Academy) accomplished in 14 months was extraordinary, but only scratching the surface of what was possible. Sports Academy’s mission remains unchanged. Sports Academy is still here to transform and progress the way each of us approach human performance. Sports Academy is still here to support current professionals and guide the next generation of athletes. Sports Academy is still here to provide an integrated and full-circle approach to training.”
Recalling The Tragedy
On January 26, Bryant, 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were traveling to a basketball tournament – which was being held at the Mamba Sports Academy – via helicopter when it crashed in fog just north of LA. The death of the five-time NBA champ sent shockwaves around the entire sports world, with many people permanently affected by Bryant’s passing. Bryant will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this August in his first year of eligibility. He is survived by his wife and three other children.
The cause of the crash is still being investigated, with the typical finger-pointing being seen. Along with Bryant and his daughter, pilot Ara Zobayan, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach the girls’ basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton were killed. Both Alyssa and Payton were on the same basketball team with Gianna.
What’s Next For The Academy
Thanks in no small part to Bryant’s involvement, the Sports Academy has been able to thrive. It had already garnered a lot of support prior to his death, and there is talk about the facility being used as a home base for a program found in the NBA G League. If approved, the G League is going to launch a new select program this year, giving certain rising basketball players a place to prepare for the NBA. It will be open to those ultra-talented players who skip college, but who are not yet able to participate in the NBA Draft.
The change in name met with some resistance on social media, with many pointing out that it seemed dropping Mamba was counterintuitive to showing Bryant respect. However, the academy stepped in to clear the air, explaining in a tweet, “The changing of the name from Mamba Sports Academy to Sports Academy, the original name from 2016, is not a decision we came to lightly or on our own. It was a mutual agreement made in accordance with the wishes of [Bryant’s] estate. Thank you for respecting that decision in these turbulent times.”