Kobe leaves behind legacy worth more than basketball

AP Photo
AP Photo

Jack Breen | Staff Writer

Jan. 30, 2019

Shortly before 10 a.m. this Sunday morning, authorities in Calabasas, California received a 911 call due to a helicopter crash that ignited a brush fire in steep terrain. More than 50 respondents arrived to the scene where they found that none of the passengers had survived the crash. 

Among the nine deceased was NBA legend Kobe Bryant, dying at age 41.

Others who were on the helicopter included Kobe’s 13 year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, Gianna’s basketball teammate, Alyssa Altobelli, Alyssa’s father, John Altobelli who was a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, Alyssa’s mother, Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Harbor Day School, Payton Chester, a middle-school student, Payton’s mother, Sarah Chester, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan. 

The victims of the crash were on their way to Mamba Sports Academy for the girls’ basketball tournament. The aircraft was moving at a rate of 184 mph and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute when it struck the ground.

Kobe Bryant was more than a basketball player. Bryant was universally respected as a father, a friend, a husband, a leader, and an inspiration to millions.

Kobe left behind his wife, Vanessa, along with three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and a 7-month old Capri. Kobe and Vanessa married in 2001 before having their first daughter. 

Bryant, born outside of Philadelphia, began his legacy at Lower Merion High School. He chose to skip college and was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick. At the time, Kobe was 17 years old. 

Bryant grew up a diehard Laker fan and was traded to LA on draft night, and spent his entire 20-year career there. His parents, Joe and Pamela, co-signed Kobe’s rookie contract with him. 

In Bryant’s rookie season, he became the youngest NBA player to debut at 18-years-old. By his second season, he became an All-Star, his first of 18 selections. By his fourth year, along with teammate and lifelong friend Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers were crowned as champions. The duo went on to win three consecutive titles with the Lakers.

Bryant won back-to-back scoring titles in 2006 and 2007. Helping him attain that accomplishment in 2006 was due to his famous 81-point game on January 22nd against the Toronto Raptors. In 2008, Bryant won his lone MVP award as he began to give rise to his signature “Mamba Mentality.” 

Led by Bryant, the Lakers went on to win two more Finals in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010, where Kobe was named Finals MVP in both years. 

As Bryant became a worldwide celebrity, he participated in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics where he won two gold medals with Team USA. He spoke several languages including English, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese in which he used with reporters during press conferences throughout the Olympics.

At age 34, Bryant faced a setback in his career when he tore his Achilles in a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 2013. After famously hitting both free throws, Bryant limped off the court as his season ended. After recovering, the Black Mamba went on to play three more seasons. 

In one of the most memorable final games of any athlete, Bryant led the Lakers to a 101-96 victory against the Utah Jazz in 2016. Bryant scored a game-high 60 points in his famous farewell. He gave a speech at center court of the Staples Center which was concluded with the quote, “Mamba Out,” as he laid the microphone down on the Lakers logo.

Bryant was always doing something different than everyone else in the NBA as he continued to be the face of LA in the 21st century even after retirement. 

After the Los Angeles Lakers retired both of his numbers, 8 and 24, Bryant produced, “Dear Basketball.” His film won an Academy Award for best animated short film in 2018.  

Bryant went on to write several books, which included including multiple children’s books. He began to embrace women’s basketball with his daughter, Gigi, becoming her mentor and taking her to several Lakers games as well as UConn women’s basketball games. 

The night before Kobe’s death, LeBron James passed Kobe on the all-time scoring list pushing Bryant to fourth place. The two NBA legends spoke Sunday morning before Kobe’s helicopter lifted the air.

After the announcement of his passing, people all around the globe found a way to honor Kobe. Thousands gathered around the Staples Center as well as his high school in Pennsylvania to celebrate a man who had so much left to achieve. 

NBA games continued on Sunday and teams honored Kobe by starting off each game with 24-second violations to tribute the athlete that many players inspired to be similar to. 

Later on Sunday evening, the Grammy’s took place in the Staples Center, the home of the Lakers. The ceremony began with a tribute to Bryant including leaving his jerseys lit up in the arena’s rafters. 

ESPN and ABC both aired “Kobe Bryant: Death of a Legend” during the Grammys which was hosted by some of Kobe’s closest friends, Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts, and Tom Rinaldi. 

On Monday, the NBA announced that the Lakers game on Tuesday would be postponed. They return Friday, hosting Portland in Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant is expected to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year. 

There are an infinite number of ways to describe Kobe’s legacy and what he meant to the world. We should remember Kobe for his greatness and appreciate what we got to witness. His death reminds us that even the strongest are never invincible and life should not be taken for granted. 

Kobe will be forever known as an NBA legend, a loving husband and father, an innovator, and an inspiration to ones when they needed it the most.