Grasping the Larry O’Brien trophy, Kobe celebrates his fifth championship in downtown Los Angeles - June 21, 2010 (Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant, the iconic Los Angeles Laker, his thirteen-year-old Gianna, and seven others were killed Sunday morning in Calabasas, California when a helicopter slammed into the side of a mountain. The Sikorsky S-76B, which was given special clearance to fly that morning, had no survivors. En route to a youth girls’ basketball tournament at Mamba Training Facility in Thousand Oaks, the flight went awry due to the dense fog looming over the city. At 9:47 communication was lost with the chopper, those close by on the ground reported what sounded like an explosion. A brush fire erupted, rising from the wreckage. The devastating news quickly followed.
At first it didn’t feel real. Honestly, it still doesn’t. There’s something to be said about just how stunned everyone felt reading the headline, seeing the quoted tweet, opening that dreaded text in your guys group chat.
The Surreal ethos of this moment can not be overstated.
In the world of journalism, you’re always reacting, always on your heels - but, at the same time, you can never forfeit composure. You have to remain, always, a professional, apathetic, neutral narrator of things as they are. You have to act like you’re not surprised, like your reporting led you to anticipate this preemptively, like you’ve seen it before. You have to find the words to tell the story. But I just can’t this time.
Frankly, this is never an article I thought I’d have to write. Someone as titanic and legendary as Kobe was supposed to be immortal, I thought. I procrastinated writing this article because I, like millions of others, was at a genuine loss of words upon learning the news. I knew it paying tribute to him, to make sense of this senseless tragedy, would be a monumentally difficult task. I won’t try to give you a false sense of normalcy: in the sports world, we have never seen anything like this before. The aftershocks of this are hard to grasp. The wide-reaching nature of this horrific development is not yet fully appreciated.
What, is, however, appreciated, is Kobe’s uniqueness. When reporting, you’re supposed to refer to the subjects wit certain formalities. Usually anyone is a Mr. or Mrs., in one of my articles, after they’re been introduced. Screw calling him Mr. Bryant. He only has one name: Kobe. A true sementing of legendary status is the absence of a last name, in sports; Shaq, LeBron, MJ, Kobe. We’ll remember him, simply, as Kobe, and kids years from now will dream of emulating the mesmerizing ride he took us on.
Young Kobe Supporters grieve together Outside the Staples Center Sunday (New York Times)
On Monday night, Senator fans converged on the Mary Keehoe-Ralph King gymnasium for a home boy’s basketball game against the Wreckers of Staples. Aside from a 37 point, nine three-pointer performance from #37, the most palpable aspect were the long faces on the athletes on both sides, who surely did, and continue to, draw inspiration from Kobe. Senior and longtime basketball player Jocelyn Lister watched from a packed student section, donning a #10 USA Basketball jersey with Bryant on the back. Asked what, exactly, ‘mamba mentality’ meant to her, she professed, “it means to try to be the best version of yourself. It doesn’t mean be the best player on the team or even being named captain and holding that leadership role, it means to work hard when no one is watching, to better yourself, your teammates and your team."
Leading the raucous McMahoniacs, Patrick Coulter - a captain of both the lacrosse and football squads - when asked the same, reflected “Growing up watching basketball, Kobe Bryant has always been one of my favorite players. I especially liked watching his interviews and other player’s testimonies about the work ethic that he had. I’ve taken inspiration from this to always be the first one at practice and the last one to leave..."
"He taught me that there’s always someone working harder than you so don’t waste a minute. His leadership and intellectual understanding of basketball taught me to always be a student of the game”.
He will be missed throughout high schools across the nation and globe, but nowhere more so than Lower Merion in southern Philadelphia, Pennyvania, where an Afro-clad Kobe at age 17 shook up highlight reels and dominated his way into the nba draft with his as a junior and senior.
Critics will, fairly, bring up his Colorado sexual assault allegations from before he was #24, but I don’t want to hear about it. For one, he was never adjudicated guilty of anything criminal. For another, he wasn’t perfect - none of us are - but did the honest, right thing in his most shameful moment, by admitting his adulterous behavior to the word. His shortcomings off the court don’t demonstrate the conviction of the person he was. By Sunday morning, he was entering a new chapter to his life, admittedly the happiest one, for him, to date. The past was behind him; forget accepting, Kobe embraced it. When you consider the countless number of professional athletes who struggled to find that peace after their playing careers compared to Kobe’s nirvana, you’re reminded of his complexity, his uniqueness, his dedication to being a role model to millions of young kids each and every day, regardless of whether or not he was still a Laker.
The future Hall of Famer admits to his wife--and the world--that he committed adultery in 2003
Sometimes when sports figures die or retire, we tend in looking back to perhaps over influence their standing among the metaphysical. Make no mistake, Kobe Bryant was arguably the greatest to step onto the hardwood. More than his skill and raw talent, he was an intellectual, and never ceased to push the status quo of how smart an NBA player can be, beneath the tattoos, and media rants, and clubbing that grabs a hold of life as a budding star in the league. This guy spoke three languages. He learned Slovenian just to try to sh** talk Luka Doncic one time. Kobe would get in your face, he’d berate your ass, never giving you an inch. Not because he hated you, but because he expected the best of you.
Five championships, two finals MVPs, an MVP award, fifteen all star appearances. Two Olympic gold medals. Fourth all time in scoring. Not one, but two jerseys retired by the association’s most storied franchise. He went on to win an academy award for documentary making soon after. Let’s be clear: we will never see another like Kobe Bryant. A man of all the wealth and fame possible, one who could walk into any street in L.A. and be treated as Jesus gracing the earth, chose to spend his weekends coaching youth basketball, just because it was one more thing to do with his beloved daughter. If that doesn’t summarize the person Kobe Bryant was in his forty-one years, I don’t know what can.
One of Bryant’s final Instagram posts was a family photo taken on Christmas
It doesn’t feel fitting to end a Kobe article on such a sad note. I’ll leave those grieving him and reading this with some funnier things that have kept me, an admirer of Kobe’s, comfort when I stumbled across them on social media t in the days since the tragedy.
When the Lakers were blown out by the trailblazers one night, Kobe took back everyone’s Kobe (shoes) and said they couldn’t wear ‘em because they were too soft.
Kobe would be like ‘you’re soft! stop crying! go hit some free throws in your driveway! others are preparing to beat you right now!” if he saw me right now.
Who could forget the video with Kanye?:
“But are you a different animal and the same beast ?”
“what the f**k does that mean Kobe Bryant?”