Los Angeles is made up of nearly 4 million people from various cultures and backgrounds. It’s home to the Lakers and a thriving hip-hop community. It’s divided in more ways than one, but after the tragic passing of rapper Nipsey Hussle and basketball legend Kobe Bryant, the city of LA set their differences aside in favor of their commonalities. They meant so much to their communities and had such a heavy impact. To this day, it doesn’t sit right talking about either one of them in the past tense.
LA’s very own Nipsey Hussle began his career in the mid-2000s with the release of his first mixtape, “Slauson Boy Vol. 1.” He went on to release “The Marathon,” “The Marathon Continues” and “Crenshaw.” He released his first studio album in 2018, “Victory Lap,” which led to his nomination at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019.
Born Ermias Asghedom in August of 1985, in the city of Crenshaw, California, Asghedom was raised with his brother, Samuel, and his sister, Samantha. He attended Hamilton High School, but dropped out before graduating. He joined the Rolling 60’s Neighborhood Crips, a sub-group of the larger Crips gang around the age of 15. When he was 19, his father took him and his older brother to Eritrea in east Africa for over three months. Asghedom was inspired to become a community activist and entrepreneur for his community.
After the trip, Asghedom began investing in himself and the community he grew up in. He funded improvements to schools in the area, spent time with the students, participated on panels to speak about growing up in Crenshaw and discussed the influence gang culture had on him. In March 2019, he even had a meeting with the LAPD and Roc Nation about how they could help prevent gang violence in South LA.
He met his partner, the actress Lauren London, in 2013. London wanted to buy Asghedom’s mixtape for her costars, which he was selling $100 each. She met him in person at his clothing store and the pair really hit it off. No one knew what their next move was because they kept their relationship out of the public’s eye. They’d post about each other, but the public didn’t know about their bumps in the road. After being hand-selected by John Singleton for the show “Snowfall” in 2016, London found out that she was pregnant. They had a very tight-knit family with their son Kross, Asghedom’s daughter, Emani, and London’s son, Cameron. Their relationship and family were idolized, especially in the black community.
On March 31, 2019, Asghedom was assassinated in front of his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing located on Crenshaw Blvd and Slauson Ave. He wasn’t just a rapper: He was an activist, a leader, entrepreneur, husband, brother, father and son. He opened his store on the same intersection where he had sold his albums out of the trunk of a car. It was important for him to give back to his community.
Born in August of 1978 in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant started playing basketball of the age of three. Around six, his father, Joe Bryant, retired from the NBA and moved his family to Italy, where he would continue to play at a lower level. At the age of 13, he and his family moved back to Pennsylvania. He attended Lower Merion High School. He started on varsity as a freshman and, throughout high school, Bryant gradually started making a name for the school again. By his junior year, he led them to their first championship in 53 years. He ended his high school career at Lower Merion as Southeastern Pennsylvania’s leading scorer with 2,883 points. After graduating, he signed a three-year rookie contract with his dream team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Following the draft, Bryant became the youngest player and starter in the NBA. He won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest at the age of 18, making him the contest’s youngest champion to date. He received more playing time in his second season, and his points per game skyrocketed from 7.6 to 15.4.
By 1999, Bryant signed a six-year contract extension which kept him with the Lakers until the end of the 2003-04 season. He went on to win three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Previous to the 2000 victory, the Lakers hadn’t seen a championship since 1988.
A 29-year-old Bryant shattered another record in 2007, becoming the youngest player to reach 20,000 points. He then became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 26,000 career points.
After helping the Lakers win five NBA championships over the course of his 20-year career, Bryant announced his retirement during the 2015-16 season. In a poem titled “Dear Basketball,” he wrote, “this season is all I have left to give.”
Off the court, Bryant met Vanessa Laine, who at the time was a background dancer for a music video. They began dating and later got engaged in May 2000. They got married nearly a year later in April 2001. In 2003 they welcomed their first child, Natalia. Their daughter Gianna was born in 2006. Then there was Bianka in 2016 and Capri in 2019. He loved being a father and husband to his wife and their kids. In a 2018 interview by The Corp, Bryant said he began to fly via helicopter in order to spend more time with his family.
Bryant explained that, before people started moving to southern California, he was able to drive to LA from his home in about 30 minutes. If you’re from California, you know traffic can be horrendous at almost all points of the day. Due to backed up traffic, Bryant would end up missing a school play or other activities. His wife would offer to pick their kids up from school, and Bryant would decline the offer because he felt the need to spend as much time with them as he could. There were always road trips and times where he wasn’t able to see his kids, and in the same interview he said, “So, like, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them — even if it’s 20 minutes in the car — like, I want that.”
The world really got to see how happy Bryant was to be a dad to his four girls. In an anecdote, Elle Duncan recalled Bryant commenting on her stomach because she was pregnant at the time. She asked him for advice and he told her to be grateful because “girls are amazing.” They went on to talk about Vanessa Bryant wanting another child in hopes of the baby being a boy, but when Duncan asked him what he thought about having another daughter, he said, “I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.”
On Jan. 26, 2020, Bryant was involved in a helicopter accident that would take not only his life, but the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, six family friends and the pilot as well. Once again, LA went silent in disbelief.
Kobe Bryant had a strong influence on basketball culture and Ermias Asghedom had a tremendous impact on his community and rap culture. They were both backed by their community and believed in giving back.
They weren’t perfect. Bryant was arrested in connections to a sexual assault complaint filed by a hotel employee. Asghedom joined a gang in his teenage years, which he made known in his music and showed visually in his music videos. Never did they claim to be perfect, but they grew from their mistakes, which is why they were loved by millions.
You don’t have to know anything about basketball, but the respect is there when it comes to Bryant and his craft. You don’t have to listen to Nipsey Hussle, but the respect is there for his craftsmanship and everything he did to uplift his community.
After both deaths, murals erupted around the city of Los Angeles and, all over the world, tributes were made in their honor. They are both living through their children and family as well as the city they loved, Los Angeles.
We will always have that “black mamba” mentality.
The marathon will continue.