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Remembering Kobe Bryant and his legacy that trancends sports

Alexandra Walt | Flickr

Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California. Bryant was only 41 years old. 

Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Hearing this line in a movie, especially one as light-hearted as The Sandlot, tends to downplay the gravity of its absolute truth. 

When an athlete wins a title, breaks a record or simply remains loyal to a team, they are generally granted “hero” status and lauded by players, fans and media alike.

However, when an athlete becomes so engrained in public culture that they become known by a single name, they are elevated to the status of a legend. 

The name “Kobe” inspires visions of Los Angeles alight with the shine of championships. 

The purple and gold of one of the NBA’s most prestigious franchises returned to its rightful place atop its pyramid. 

The Lakers of the early aughts rivaled only the Showtime era of the 1980s as the best teams ever to grace a basketball court in the City of Angels. 

Bryant’s number 8 and 24 both hang from the rafters in Staples Center. 

Bryant finished his remarkable 20-year career as an 18-time All-Star, with 15 All-NBA team appearances and 12 NBA All-Defensive team appearances. 

He was part of the 2008 Redeem Team that won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, as well as the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London.

Bryant was a complete player, scoring 33,643 points while grabbing over 7,000 rebounds and dishing out over 6,000 assists. 

Bryant won five championships with the Lakers and yet only won the NBA MVP once in 2008. 

Bryant’s first three championships saw him and running mate Shaquille O’Neal bring back the glitz and glamour to Los Angeles with a dominant three-peat in the early 2000s.

The last two titles were won with another excellent supporting cast of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher.

He still holds the record for the second-highest scoring game by a player in NBA history with 81 and his career was punctuated in his last game. 

In front of celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and many others, Kobe scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz in 2016.

Bryant’s legacy extends beyond the hardwood, as he is a lover of soccer and an advocate for the growth of Major League Soccer. 

His support for the growth of women’s sports, especially the WNBA, was typified by his daughter Gianna, a budding star in her own right. 

He went into the world of filmmaking, winning an Oscar for his animated short film Dear Basketball.

What will be remembered the most about Bryant was the “Mamba Mentality” he personified. His work ethic on the court is now amongst the most well-known pieces of association lore. 

He started his workouts at five in the morning and played one-on-one with his teammates until one of them, usually Bryant, scored 100 points while he was a player at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia. 

He would start his drills before anyone else and was the last player to leave the gym, even using his teammates as “guinea pigs” for new moves. 

The “Black Mamba” was always willing to play isolation ball and shoot his trademark fadeaway jumper.

His desire to shoot and have the ball in his hands no matter what happened on the previous play has been burned into the mind of young hoopers worldwide. 

The “Mamba Mentality” transcended the world of sports, expanding beyond the realm of basketball.

It was not just about what he accomplished on the court.

It was a standard of excellence that was fed by the constant need to get better and perfect the craft.

It was the ability to look an opponent in the face and know that you might not have as much skill, but you will absolutely work harder than them. 

Sports can be fickle. There must always be a winner and a loser. But the way the Bryant gave his heart, soul, mind and body to the game of basketball can only be admired. 

For many in this generation, Bryant was Michael Jordan. There was confidence flowing out of him every time he stepped on the court. 

The generation of young players who shouted his name whenever they would attempt a fadeaway shot or just shoot a crumpled piece of paper into a trash can would be stupid to anyone not named Kobe.

Many of the league’s top players that played in the same era as Bryant or became stars during the twilight of Bryant’s career looked up to him as inspiration.

Players like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, will all say that Bryant elevated and inspired their game in some way. 

The kids that grew up watching him are now the pre-eminent, rising young stars in the game, led by names such as Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.  

But if there is one player willing to have the ball in his hands in clutch moments, Kobe’s legacy will still live on.

Basketball will never be the same without the Black Mamba, but his legacy is immortalized.

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