However, Howard’s return to the Lakers during the 2019-20 NBA season and his new outlook on the game of basketball lent itself to a great redemption arc as well as a second chance with Bryant.
Sadly, that second chance never got to be fulfilled as on Jan. 26 Bryant was killed in a tragic helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. Just before this, Howard was openly trying to get in touch with Bryant to see if he would accompany him to the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago where he will be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Now, in the wake of Bryant’s death, Howard revealed Bryant was going to help him, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“He was going to do something for me in the dunk contest, which is kind of heartbreaking,” Howard said Tuesday following the Lakers’ 129-102 win over the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. “It’s been on my mind every day. Man, I can’t believe it. I’m still in shock. It hurts. It’s tough. I just never thought that somebody like that would be gone.”
Before this tragedy, Howard’s agent and Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka confirmed to him that Bryant had agreed to join him:
Howard told ESPN that Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Howard’s agent, Charles Briscoe, learned that Bryant would indeed be joining him at All-Star Weekend before the tragedy that took the lives of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
While Bryant’s death is no longer the headlining news story everywhere, there’s still a deeply somber feeling hanging over the NBA, especially in Los Angeles. Stories like this bring everyone back to the initial heartbreak of finding out the news for the first time.
Howard had been working so hard this season to regain the favor of the Lakers fans and everyone in the organization and he had been extremely successful. Seeing him and Bryant together in Chicago would’ve been an incredible moment for him and all of Lakers Nation.
Sadly, that moment will not happen now and Howard will do the dunk contest without Bryant’s help. Perhaps Howard will do some kind of tribute to Bryant at the dunk contest as All-Star Weekend will already be filled with tributes of that kind.