A Letter in Memory of Kobe Bryant: A legend in the Bay Area and beyond

Kobe Bryant (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The world was shocked to learn of the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. We examine his legacy in the Bay Area and beyond.

January 26th, 2020 is a day that will live in basketball infamy.

The world was absolutely stunned by the shocking news that NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter accident. It was later reported that Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, was one of eight other passengers who tragically lost their lives.

The news immediately sent a wave of shock through the sports world. And the rest of the world. We all wanted nothing more than for the initial reports to be false.

Many wondered if the internet was fooling them. Then, one by one, more credible sources confirmed the unthinkable. Our hearts collectively sank.

We are all undoubtedly still trying to process the awful news. Kobe was a superhero to so many basketball fans around the world. Many of us felt the pain of his loss, despite never having personally met him.

I write this article for one simple reason: to honor the Black Mamba by reminiscing about the moments that made us all fall in love with him. Its intention is to carry to utmost respect and sensitivity.

It is meant to play a small part in keeping the memory of a legend alive.

The Impact

Kobe was one of my absolute favorite basketball players. I remember (like so many others) practicing my post-fade-away jumper and counting down a fictional clock to simulate one of Bryant’s many clutch moments.

Bryant’s career was nothing short of legendary. The former 13th overall pick accumulated a total of five NBA Championships. He was also a two-time Finals MVP, an 18-time All-Star, and the 2008 NBA MVP.

Kobe’s stardom was apparent from the moment he took over as a starter, to the very last dribble in his famous 60-point farewell in his final NBA game.

He was also recently awarded an Oscar for his role in the film “Dear Basketball.” In many ways, everything Kobe touched turned to gold.

The star was beloved by players and fans all over the NBA landscape. In fact, many teams honored Kobe by intentionally taking 24-second violations and 8-second violations to open their games.

Bryant wore both numbers as a player. Both have been retired and immortalized in the banners in Staples Center.

The Bay Area Moments

Kobe never played for any of the Bay Area teams. He did, however, spend his entire 20-year career building an empire and legacy in California. He also had many memories against the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.

Who could forget the epic playoff performances between Bryant’s Lakers and Chris Webber’s Kings in the early 2000s? The Lakers’ most famous battles with the Kings were a critical part of Bryant’s three-peat in Los Angeles.

While the Warriors dynasty came after the Lakers’ prime, the two teams did engage in several memorable match-ups. Bryant’s famous Achilles tear occurred on an April 12th game against Golden State in 2013.

Despite suffering the devastating injury mid-game, the future Hall-of-Famer valiantly shook off the pain. He forced himself to the free-throw line, where he shot and made two key free throws in an eventual Lakers’ victory.

There was also the game where Kobe matched up against then up-and-coming shooter Stephen Curry. Bryant was playing aggressive defense against the future MVP, but saw Curry create space with his forearm, and drain a long three in his face.

In what felt like a passing of the guard moment, Bryant smiled and slapped Curry on the backside as the two ran back up the court. If you’ve never seen the moment, you can check it out here.

Players from both teams took to social media to honor the fallen All-Star. Players like Harry Giles and Bogdan Bogdanovic were two of the first to publicly mourn the loss. Curry also honored Bryant by adding pictures of the two to his twitter bio.

These shout outs were a few amongst thousands given in Kobe’s memory. The news even transcended the basketball world, as it spilled into all facets of life. 49ers All-Pro Richard Sherman was one of many cross-sport athletes to publicly pay his respects.

The Legacy

Despite everything he accomplished in his illustrious playing career, Kobe made one thing clear: his greatest accomplishments were with his family.

The superstar was frequently seen with his wife Vanessa, who he had known since 1999 and been married to since 2001. Bryant is also survived by his three daughters: Natalia (born in 2003), Bianka (born in 2016), and Capri (born in 2019).

Bryant was commonly seen supporting and teaching his daughter Gianna as she aspired to carve out her own basketball path. In fact, the NBA legend served as a coach on his daughter’s team since 2016. He was one of the biggest supporters of the WNBA and women’s basketball.

While many fans and analysts were quick to comment on Kobe’s basketball legacy (rightfully so), many peers who knew him personally also echoed his commitment to his family.

Michael Jordan, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Steve Nash were among many who openly spoke to Kobe’s love and commitment as a husband and father. Again, this small handful was among a sea of tributes.

This leads to the most important takeaway.

As we all struggle to heal and reconcile with the shocking news, surviving family members Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri will have the most difficult battle.

I can think of no better way to honor the legacies of Kobe and Gianna than to keep their family in our thoughts and prayers. This also applies to the families of the others impacted by the tragic events.