The basketball world has lost one of its greatest icons and most recognizable faces. But today, we remember Kobe Bryant the man and touch on his legacy.
Today we woke up to a world much different than the one we woke up to yesterday. Most of us likely awoke in the same bed we did the morning before, but for many, something just felt different.
It felt hollow. It felt empty. It just didn’t feel right.
NBA icon and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has passed away. But more importantly, Kobe Bryant the father, the husband, and the man is no longer with us. Neither is his 13-year-old daughter Gianna or the seven other lives tragically lost on Sunday, January 26th, 2020.
There is no correct way to react to a tragedy like this, but if you’re anything like me, it went a little something like this.
First, it was shock and denial of reality. It didn’t seem real, it didn’t seem right. That transitioned into grief and despair for Bryant and his loved ones. The realization began to set in that this was real and that actual lives were changed forever as a result.
That grief eventually turned into a feeling of emptiness. Something is missing from this world and no matter what methods we choose to escape from reality, it’s impossible to shake that hollow feeling.
Kobe Bryant is no longer on this earth. His legacy, the way people will remember him forever until the end of time, has been changed in the blink of an eye.
Future generations will not only never be able to see Kobe play, but they will have never lived in a world in which he was alive. He will be a relic of the past, not just his playing career but him as a person.
His entire legacy as a human being….changed.
And his daughter, she was stripped of her legacy before she could ever even establish one. Any dreams of playing in the WNBA and following in her father’s footsteps are now aspirations lost to history.
I think that’s what has hit me the most. So many lost their hero on Sunday, they lost their role model. Others lost a friend, a parent, or a spouse. But for the nine individuals who lost their lives, their legacies were forever changed without warning.
That speaks to the fragility of life and the unjust balance between life and death.
Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven others on board that helicopter on Sunday were taken away from their loved ones — taken away from this world — before it was their time.
Legacies revised. Lifes affected. And the world forever changed.
Kobe Bryant’s legacy as a human being may forever be changed, but the memories he gave the world as an on-court icon will be remembered for eternity.
It’s difficult to put into the words the impact that Kobe had on not only the basketball world, not only the sports world, but the ‘world’ world in its entirety.
An entire generation of kids grew up wearing Bryant jerseys. They grew up mimicking their favorite NBA star’s on-court achievements and mannerisms. To many in that generation, he was their superhero.
And to many, he still is.
His name became as synonymous with the sport of basketball as any other player in history. Whether you were a sports fan or not, you knew who Kobe Bryant was.
It takes a truly special individual to transcend the world of sports and breakthrough into pop culture the way that he did. He will be remembered for that and his impressive on-court achievements, but he will also be remembered for his so-called “Mamba Mentality.”
Nobody outworked Kobe Bryant. He was blessed to have been gifted with incredible talent and athletic gifts, but it was his work ethic that truly made him stand out.
"“I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great.'”"
Another great story came from a team trainer while Kobe was playing for Team USA in the Olympics who recounted how the 18-time All-Star once held a workout from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. and refused to leave the gym until he made 800 shots.
That’s just who Kobe was. That was that “Mamba Mentality” that allowed him to be as great as he became. And if we’re going to remember anything about Kobe Bryant the player, that’s what should be remembered.
An unrelenting desire to be great and a never-ending determination to overachieve.
The Bay Area Knows Him Well
Los Angeles has long been a rival of the Bay Area. Generally speaking, L.A. fans do not like Bay Area teams and Bay Area fans do not like L.A. teams.
And that’s certainly true for Bay Area fans and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe and his Lakers had numerous encounters with California’s two northern franchises as the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings both got to know him pretty well over his legendary 20-year career.
Only one team — the crosstown Los Angeles Clippers — saw Kobe play more than the Warriors did and Kobe arguably found his most consistent success playing the pre-dynasty Dubs.
Bryant averaged 27.0 points per game in 67 career games against the Warriors with his 27.3 average against the Portland Trail Blazers being the only team he fared better against.
Meanwhile, only five teams played Bryant more than the Kings and their memorable playoff matchups in the early-2000s will forever be burned into the minds of Kings fans.
Kobe made his mark on Los Angeles, but he will forever be remembered as an icon in the state of California. And while Bay Area fans may be taunted with memories of Bryant tormenting their favorite teams, they will always respect his greatness and the legacy he leaves behind.
Los Angeles and the Bay Area may be bitter rivals, but today, they stand arm in arm as brothers and sisters.
A Final Farewell
The grieving will continue for days and weeks. For some of us, it may never end. But eventually, the world will have to move forward and continue turning. The sports world may have stood still for a day, but it won’t stand still forever.
However, Kobe Bryant will never be forgotten.
Not as long as his wife and children are alive to continue on his legacy. Not as long as the memories of his signature moments are playing on repeat in his fans’ heads. And not as long as kids still shout “Kobe” as they toss anything from a piece of paper into a garbage can to a basketball into a hoop.
To those affected by Sunday’s tragedy, know that the entire world is with you. That feeling of hollowness still resides in the guts of many of his longtime colleagues and admirers.
But with time, the grief will turn into a celebration of life. A celebration of one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. And a celebration of a wonderful human being.
Kobe Bryant’s legacy may be changed forever. But rest assured it will never be forgotten.