Kobe Bryant's Death Shook The Poker World3 years ago
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter. The five-time NBA champion was seen as a candidate for the greatest player of all-time after his retirement in 2016.
Kobe Bryant had an illustrious career spanning 20 years. For every one of those years he remained loyal to a single team - the Los Angeles Lakers.
By the time of his retirement he had racked up enough points to place him third in the highest scorers leaderboard behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Ties to Poker
Having dedicated his entire playing career to the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant would no doubt have been aware that the long-time owner Jerry Buss was a poker fanatic.
Buss was a regular at the World Series of Poker and even used to appear on TV shows such as High Stakes Poker during the initial boom years. When Buss passed away in 2013, the WSOP organisers thought it would be a fitting tribute to invite Bryant to come and play in memory of his friend.
Unfortunately, Bryant had sustained a serious injury to his Achilles tendon during that season and was prevented from playing on the orders of his team doctor. Apparently sitting for long periods would interfere too much with the recovery process.
Ever the gentleman, Bryant still attended in honour of his friend and performed the traditional “shuffle up and deal” speech that starts every tournament for event #23, $2,500 Seven Card Stud - Buss’s favourite variant.
Tributes Pouring In
Basketball is a popular sport across the US, with many high-profile names from poker being hardcore fans.
Tributes from Mike “The Mouth'' Matusow and Doyle Brunson were quickly posted on Twitter following the news of the tragedy.
Brunson even came close to securing a place as an NBA professional that was eventually scuppered by an injury that curtailed a once promising career. Just think what poker almost missed out on.
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