Sometimes, there are no words. A moment occurs and there’s nothing you can say to truly comprehend or describe what has just happened. That’s how I felt Sunday afternoon after I learned that Kobe Bryant had passed away in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and 7 others. They were on their way to a basketball event.
It’s incredibly sad news. He was only 41 and his post career life was just beginning.
His NBA career and accolades are unquestionable. He was one of the best players to ever do it and he was the role model for so many of the talented players in the league today. His Lakers career sits neatly beside many other NBA legends. He was LA. He had earned the respect from fans and players across the league, even his biggest rivals and critics, myself included.
Kobe did have his issues off the court. In 2003, Kobe was arrested and accused of sexual assault in Colorado. The case was eventually dropped and settled out of court with Kobe issuing a public apology. It’s important to recognize this moment and understand why some people don’t share the admiration that others have for him. He was an imperfect person and it’s okay to feel complicated.
I’d be lying if I said that I had been a Kobe fan for his whole career. Shea Serrano wrote a great piece on how hating an athlete because of their greatness was the highest compliment you could give another athlete. That was Kobe for me. Towards the end of his career and definitely after he retired, he demanded my respect. I have a rookie card of his stored away at my parent’s house that holds new meaning today.
Kobe’s legacy will be his obsessive work ethic and pursuit of greatness. A constant journey towards excellence. The “Mamba Mentality” as it is often referred. He was relentless in reaching his goals and to be the best in the game. This continued after his career was over. He would later win an Oscar for an animated short film he made about his love for the game of basketball. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see what else he might have been able to accomplish.He had so much more to give.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also talk about his daughter. By all accounts, Gianna was a very talented young basketball player with aspirations of her own. Playing for UCONN. Playing in the WNBA. Kobe was right there, teaching her and being her biggest supporter. It was clear whenever he talked about her that he was proud of her. She was ready to carry on his legacy. They shared a passion and love for the game of basketball.
His impact on the league and the world will be felt for a long time. Legends are forever. Kobe, you will be missed dearly by many. Our thoughts are with your family and friends during this difficult time.
8 KOBE STATS
Here are 8 different stats that stood out from Kobe’s career:
1. 33,643 Career Points (4th All-Time)
2. 5x NBA Champion
3. 11x First Team All-NBA
4. 18x All-Star
5. 2x NBA Finals MVP
6. 9x All-Defensive First Team
7. 2x Olympic Gold Medalist
8. 4x All-Star Game MVP
8 KOBE STORIES
Here are 8 different stories worth reading that writers published after Kobe passed away:
1. Ramona Shelburne: “Kobe Bryant never stopped trying to inspire” (ESPN)
2. Jackie MacMullen: “Remembering Kobe Bryant: Relentless, curious and infinitely complicated” (ESPN)
3. Jemele Hill: “The Kobe I Knew Became a Champion for Others” (The Atlantic)
4. Rob Mahoney: “The Loss of a Myth and a Man” (The Ringer)
5. Howard Beck: “The Making of an NBA Icon” (Bleacher Report)
6. Marc Stein: “Kobe Bryant’s Brilliant and Complicated Legacy” (New York Times)
7. Tom Ziller: “Kobe Bryant played basketball like there was no tomorrow” (SB Nation)
8. Paolo Uggetti: “‘He Was the Lakers’: The Surreal Scenes As Los Angeles Mourns the Loss of Kobe Bryant” (The Ringer)
8 KOBE MOMENTS
Here are 8 memorable moments from Kobe’s career:
1. Scoring 81 points in a game against the Raptors (2006)
2. Scoring 60 points in his last ever NBA game against the Jazz (2016)
7. When he faced off against MJ for the first time (1996)
8. Winning his first NBA title (2000)
8 stats. 8 stories. 8 moments. 24 ways to remember Kobe. Seems fitting.
There have already been some touching tributes to Kobe and his legacy. Players have been adding messages to their shoes. NBA teams were starting games by getting 24 second shot clock violations. The Dallas Mavericks even announced that they were retiring the number 24.
Kobe loved basketball and basketball loved him.