The NBA and sports world mourns the loss of the legendary Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash claimed his life, his daughter’s life, and seven others.
Kobe Bean Bryant. The “Black Mamba.” Champion, competitor, and the closest we got to Michael Jordan. While those are all synonymous with Kobe himself, gone at 41 shouldn’t be. Nor should we be here lamenting the fact that his daughter, Gianna, perished at the oh so young age of 13. We should not be lamenting the seven other lives that were taken away too soon. Yet, here we are.
While death is something we all face at some point, this one stings that much more. In fact, it stings so much, that there are no words to describe how I feel about the whole situation. I will do my best to power through this. Here we go.
Where to begin? As fans, we all know the numbers and accolades. Here is a refresher:
18x All-Star, 4x All-Star MVP, 2007-08 NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 5x NBA Champion, 33,643 career points, and two jerseys retired at Staples Center. 20 whole years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, there is more to Kobe than just numbers. Yes, he was a competitor. He aimed to finish his opponents off. As of Saturday night, he was now the fourth highest scorer in the history of the NBA. In fact, that night he tweeted a congratulatory message to LeBron James when he eclipsed him for third place. The next day everything changed.
Above all, Kobe was a father, a son, a mentor, and an icon. Especially an icon of my childhood. You see, for 20 years, Kobe embodied the best work ethic anyone has ever seen. I can say I fondly remember 12 to 13 of his 20 seasons. But I witnessed him at his highest, and at his lowest. I saw Kobe play when his Lakers squads were horrible. I remember his scoring tear in the 2006 season. The man literally averaged 40 points a game for a month. He averaged that same amount in a week at one point. There was also the 81 point game against Toronto.
I also remember Kobe when his teams couldn’t win. When fans and media alike thought he was nothing without Shaquille O’Neal. Then came Pau Gasol. That was followed by back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Follow that up with an Achilles tear. He managed to come back. Just like he always had.
I’ll never forget being in college while watching his final game as he torched the Utah Jazz for his final 60 points.
Then came retirement. Despite all of the accolades I mentioned, this loss stings more for one reason. Kobe looked happy in his retirement. He was finally at peace.
While his career as a player was nothing short of great, he was an even better person off the court during his second act. He was the father and husband of a beautiful family. His four girls and his wonderful wife Vanessa Bryant. While being with his family, he was also embarking on another career.
Kobe had already released one book, that won a Pulitzer prize, and his film titled “Dear Basketball” earned him an Oscar. Kobe was on his way to greatness in this second career. Unfortunately, we never got there.
However, the one thing that really made him happy, was being able to coach his daughter Gianna while she played with her AAU team. Gigi was a carbon copy of her father. She had his look, his shot, and definitely his fadeaway shot. The girl was destined to be a baller like her father. Unfortunately, she never got there.
As I write this, I can’t help but think about all of the great potential this duo had left to give. They were going to star side by side. Gigi and Kobe. “Dear Basketball” is harder to watch now, as it felt like a goodbye in the making. More so now than ever. Here it is.
There are plenty of lasting legacies the great Kobe Bryant leaves behind. From his passion for the game. To his love and support of women and women’s sports. Most importantly, his undying love for his family and the work he was embarking on in his post-playing career. He never had an interest in coaching in the NBA. Perhaps he would’ve considered the WNBA had his daughter been able to play. She was truly on her way to stardom.
My condolences to the Bryant Family, the families of the other victims, and the Los Angeles Community. A great one has left far too soon. As fans, all we can do is love the game, and be relentless in all of our pursuits and endeavors. That’s what Kobe would want.
He wasn’t perfect. At times Kobe could be brash, too much to handle for teammates, and he had faults like any human being. Despite all of that, Kobe had a vision. A vision that none of us will see. Whatever us as fans thought of him before, he should just be thought of as greatness personified. It is what he deserves.
I would like to end the piece with this:
Kobe, I personally despised you as a player. You broke my heart as a young fan. When you retired I was sad because as an older person I appreciated your game so much more. Watching you come back to the NBA because Gigi wanted to learn from you and her idols was so refreshing. You brought life to the game as a player and as a legend after retirement. You are unmatched. Simply put, you are irreplaceable. There will never be another “Black Mamba.”
I am forever fond of the memories you gave me as a fan growing up. The entire NBA fan base around the world is eternally grateful to your greatness. Your impact goes beyond the basketball court. Thank you for being an ambassador of the game. Your support of the young generation, as well as your mentorship, will be sorely missed.
However, this time around you broke my heart in a different way. You shouldn’t be gone. Nonetheless, the legacy you leave behind is so far-reaching, that kids will be shooting into trash cans while yelling “KOBE!” for years to come.
Kobe Bean Bryant. Father, son, mentor, and a great player. Relentless competitor and above all, champion of life.
As a fan of basketball, and a fan of you, thank you for everything. Rest easy, Mamba.
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Hardworking, loyal, and passionate. I love the people that surround me because they allow me to be who I am. A lover of sports, video games, and life itself. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and a person who holds nothing but love in his heart. I do this for Rosa Maria Magana and Edward Magana. A.k.a my folks in heaven. Music and sports keep me alive and well.