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Kobe Bryant And Other Helicopter Crash Victims Will Be Honored By NASCAR Driver Daniel Suarez

Gettyimages | Rob Carr
By Clark Sparky

The death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash last month impacted athletes across all sports beyond just basketball. Included in that are NASCAR drivers, especially Daniel Suarez, who plans to honor Bryant and the eight other victims of the accident during Sunday's Auto Club 400 race.

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Suarez will have the names of all nine victims -- Kobe, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan -- on the door of his car.

In addition, he'll be wearing special Kobe inspired gloves and shoes, which will later be auctioned off.

“Mamba mentality is what Kobe always said and one of the great things he is known for,” Suarez said. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s something you have to have inside of you, to be hungry, to go out there and get out of that comfort zone. Kobe was a huge role model. I want to give back the way Kobe used to give back.

“To give back, we’re going to auction off the gloves and shoes after the race to try and donate as much money as possible to the Mamba Foundation. We’re going to put a minimum of a $5,000 donation into this foundation," Suarez continued. "I have opinions about many athletes, but I’ve always admired most the ones who are not only great at their game, but great outside their game. Kobe was that kind of athlete, and that kind of a person.”

Gettyimages | Christian Petersen

The tribute will come at the end of a week that started with a celebration of life for Bryant and Gianna. Kobe's wife, Vanessa, spoke at the ceremony.

"I couldn't see him as a celebrity, nor as an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything," Vanessa said about Bryant. "... He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring and romantic."

"Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul," Vanessa said. "She was always thoughtful. She always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning. There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianka and Capri and I thought she had left for school without saying goodbye. I text and say 'No kiss?' and Gianna would reply with, 'Mama, I kissed you but you were asleep and I didn't want to wake you.'

"She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me. She was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day," she continued. "She was Daddy's girl but I know she loved her mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends. She loved faith, she loved putting a smile on everyone's faces."

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