As the new broke yesterday that NBA legend Kobe Bryant had passed away in a helicopter crash, a wide range of emotion came over me all at once. This has to be a hoax, right? Please be one of those social media hoaxes.
Unfortunately, it was very real. The ‘Black Mamba’ dead at 41. It doesn’t feel right. Kobe Bryant was a legend, but he was so much more than just basketball. Bryant embraced the brand; he traveled to China to promote the sport internationally. He wasn’t just a legend in America, Kobe is this superstar similar to Michael Jordan all over the World.
There are plenty of Los Angeles Lakers greats, but for me, Kobe takes the cake. Yes, over Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar respectfully. Part of the reason is because of my age. I grew up with Jordan and watched the torch being passed to Bryant then to LeBron.
It’s impressive; as a Detroit Pistons fan, I didn’t like either of those three players, but all three in a way grew on me. As their careers progressed, it went from hatred, to respect, to admiration and now in Kobe Bryant’s situation devastation.
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You see, sports do this to us. Sports can bring people to tears, because it’s more than sports, it’s real life. Everything is relatable, and sports are no different. Once the news broke that Bryant’s daughter was on board the chopper, just like you, I immediately had a lump in my throat.
My eyes started to swell. No, I didn’t think about basketball or the Lakers/Pistons battles, particularly 2004, when Detroit beat the heavily favored Bryant/Shaq led Lakers in a mere five games. I thought about his family, his wife, the children, a mother that lost a husband, and a daughter. Sisters lost a sibling. Daughters lost a father. I feel sick.
His daughter Gianna was destined to be a WNBA star. I’m sure you’ve seen the clip of Kobe talking to Jimmy Kimmel about folks mentioning he needed to have a son to keep the legacy alive, and he counters with his daughter stepping up with a flinger wag saying ‘he doesn’t need a son for that, I got this.’ It just breaks my heart.
I feel terrible for John Altobelli, his wife Kari, and daughter Alyssa who played on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant were en route to a travel game on the chopper. John, a junior college coach, bonded with Bryant, Kobe, often speaking to the ball club as a motivational speaker.
As much as I love sports, I have the same passion for history; it comes as no surprise how the two intertwine. History is sports. Like many events in your life, you will always remember exactly where you were when specific events took place – this is no exception.
When I think of Kobe, the first things that come to mind are Championships, determination, and dominance. I remember Bryant scoring 81 on the Raptors, or 60 in his final game and then speaking to the crowd, mentioning it couldn’t be any more perfect, it’s the best time to leave the game as he said: “Mamba Out” and the microphone dropped to the Lakers symbol at mid-court.
After understanding, there is no need to hate this one time enemy but admire what he was doing at his age; I began to enjoy watching him go to work every night. There was no such thing as ‘load management.’ He wanted to be great every single night.
Kobe was a fierce competitor that could score in many different ways. He’d score at the block, post you up, shoot a mid-range jumper, break your knees with a cross over or pull up at the three-point line and bury a dagger. Simply incredible.
If you were born in the mid to late 80s all the way to the mid-00s and you were on the court, in the gym, in your driveway, you’re lying if you don’t admit you took a fadeaway jumper and imagined yourself as Kobe Bryant. That’s the impact he had on the sport. Similar to everyone wanting to be Magic, Jordan. Everyone also wanted to be Kobe.
Just remember, stars fade away, but legends last forever. Kobe’s legacy will last forever. The NBA should follow in Mark Cuban’s footsteps and retire number 24 across the league.
Kobe Bryant, gone far too soon at the age of 41. Rest easy, Black Mamba.