Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the 9 people killed on Sunday morning when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.
The main reason Kobe’s death is so shocking is that the concept of Kobe dying just wasn’t something you would’ve considered before Sunday. He was 41 and still clearly in good physical condition. There’s a decent chance he hadn’t even hit the halfway mark of his life’s trajectory when he was suddenly taken in an instant. The fact that his young daughter (and several others) were there with him makes the incident all the more heartbreaking.
Bryant obviously wasn’t perfect, because nobody is. His passing resonates with so many people because he had been in the public eye for the vast majority of his life. He entered the NBA in 1996 as a 17-year-old, which gave people the opportunity to see him grow up. He still looked the same, but in a lot of ways he hardly resembled the kid we initially became acquainted with over 20 years ago.
Kobe Was “The Next MJ”
Kobe finished his playing career in 2016 by scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. It was the most Kobe thing ever in a lot of ways. Always a showman, he put a bow on his 20-year tenure with the Lakers by doing it his way, just as he always had. That style didn’t always endear him to opposing fans, players or even his teammates, but it worked for him. That’s just who he was. If you didn’t like it, why should he care?
There has been chatter about “the next Michael Jordan” since Jordan himself called it quits in the early-2000s, but it’s hard to imagine any player will come as close as Bryant did to replicating MJ as a player. Both were motivated to a point of obsession to be the best player in history. Both entered the league as high-flying athletes. Toward the end of their respective careers, after their athleticism had waned, both played with a unique guile and craftiness. Kobe even mastered Jordan’s signature turnaround fadeaway jumper and turned it into a weapon in his own offensive arsenal.
Kobe’s Legacy to LeBron
Bryant finished his career with the third-most points in NBA history. He put 33,643 points on the board over the course of 1,346 games, all of which were played in the Lakers’ purple and gold. The timing of Kobe’s death is incredibly ironic considering LeBron James, who has followed in Bryant’s footsteps in a number of ways over the course of his own illustrious career, passed Kobe on the all-time scoring list on Saturday night.
James, who knocked Bryant down to fourth on the list, accomplished the feat as a member of the Lakers in Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia. LeBron wrote “Mamba 4 Life, 8/24 KB” on his sneakers for the occasion. After the game, James said,
“It’s just too much. It’s too much. The story is too much. It doesn’t make sense. Just to make a long story short, now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from. The first time I ever met him, gave me his shoes on All-Star Weekend. It’s surreal. It doesn’t make no sense, but the universe just puts things in your life. And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you’re doing, things happen organically.
“And it’s not supposed to make sense, but it just happens. And I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”
LeBron’s comments came about 12 hours before Bryant’s death.
It’s not wrong to suggest that Kobe Bryant was the star among a city full of them that shined the brightest. He spent his entire playing career playing in one of the world’s biggest media markets for one of the world’s most iconic franchises. The Lakers are the most famous NBA team of all. Kobe is the most famous Laker of all.
Kobe Inspired Today’s NBA Stars
Kobe made no secret of the fact that he looked up to Jordan growing up. The similarities in their respective styles was no accident. Bryant modeled his game after MJ, and it showed. Nowadays, most of the players that have come into the league since Kobe have looked up to him exactly the same way.
Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks is one of the many. The Hawks were tasked with playing a game on Sunday afternoon, just a few hours news of Bryant’s death came down. Young said he was absolutely gutted, which is the same thing we were all feeling when we heard. The news was a little more personal for Young, though. Kobe and Gianna attended 3 NBA games this season, 2 of which featured the Hawks. Young was Gianna’s favorite current player, so Kobe flew with her to Atlanta to see him play earlier this season.
…This S*** can’t be real… this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year… 2 of them were mine… She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭
Young, who normally wears jersey No. 11, donned Kobe’s familiar No. 8 for the Hawks’ game Sunday afternoon against the Wizards. All the All-Star guard did was score 45 points along with 14 assists in Atlanta’s 152-133 demolition of Washington.
Fittingly, Young became just the second player in 14 years to score 45 points while posting a double-double on fewer than 25 shot attempts. The last player to accomplish the feat was Kobe Bryant against the very same Washington Wizards in December of 2006.
That’s just one example. Players all over the league shared their personal stories and messages in the hours after Bryant’s tragic passing, and we’re sure to hear plenty more in the days and weeks to come.
Kobe & Gianna
Kobe was a ruthless competitor as a player, but he seemed to have mellowed out since finishing his playing career. By all accounts, he was content with his life as a father of 4 daughters, and he had aspirations of achieving a lot in his future life outside of basketball.
It’s cruel that we will never know what Kobe or Gianna could have accomplished in the years ahead. She shared her father’s love of basketball, and he has mentioned in the past that she had dreams of playing college ball at UConn and, potentially, following in Kobe’s footsteps with a pro career of her own.
Kobe Bryant is gone. Those are weird words to type, but he’ll certainly never be forgotten. He will be remembered as the best Laker of them all, and many will tell you he’s one of the 5 best players to ever play in the NBA. Kobe is a 5-time NBA champion, a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, a 4-time All-Star Game MVP, a 2-time scoring champion, a 2-time NBA Finals MVP, an 18-time All-Star and he has one league MVP to his name.
Fans will always remember Kobe for his unwavering confidence and his iron will. His “second act” as a father may go overlooked in the grand scheme of all of his basketball accomplishments, but his efforts to inspire the next generation shouldn’t die in vain.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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