Kobe Bryant, also known as the Black Mamba, passed away with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Bryant, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and seven other people were on their way to Bryant’s youth basketball academy when the helicopter went down in Calabasas, California. Bryant was a retired NBA star who, among countless other honors and recognitions, won five championships, was an 18-time All-Star, and a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he led the NBA in scoring during two seasons, ranks fourth on the league’s all-time regular-season scoring and fourth on the all-time playoffs scoring list. With Vanessa Bryant, he had four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri.
“When I read the headline ‘Kobe Bryant dies at age 41 with his daughter,’ I couldn’t believe it,” said Ethan Choi (10), Philadelphia Sixers fan. “I thought it was a joke. Legends, like Bill Russel who played in the 70s, are still alive, and Bryant retired only recently. It was completely unexpected and really saddening. Every time we throw a paper ball into a trash can, we say, ‘Kobe.’ It’s silly, but it shows how he united a lot of people. He was the symbol of pure passion and the Mamba Mentality. I would say that he changed the game. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you can take Bryant’s mentality and be inspired; his passion and work ethic were truly unmatched.”
Following his shocking death, many paid respect to the loss of a legend in a number of unprecedented ways. NBA teams honored him with 24-second and 8-second violations to start games. Lebron James, who was congratulated by Bryant the day before his death for passing him on NBA’s all-time scoring list as third, expressed his heartbreak on social media. Mark Cuban, the owner of Dallas Mavericks, said no other Maverick would wear the number 24 on their team. A number of other influential figures of the world responded to his death, including Barack Obama, Magic Johnson, Usain Bolt, Dwayne Wade, Tiger Woods, and Shaquille O’Neil. Furthermore, the 62nd annual Grammy Awards remembered Kobe in various ways. Alicia Keys, who hosted the show, took the moment to honor Bryant, and Lizzo, who sang “Cuz I Love You,” declared that “tonight is for Kobe” at the Staples Center, where Kobe celebrated so many memories with numerous people.
Kobe Bryant reached a level of greatness few other athletes have known. He was celebrated for being the youngest player to enter the NBA, for playing 20 years in one franchise, for shooting free throws with a torn Achilles tendon, and for playing injured on many occasions. But Bryant was more than just a retired NBA player. In 2017, his short film “Dear Basketball” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, which made him the first professional athlete to win an Oscar. In 2016, he opened Mamba Sports Academy, which Bryant said, “[It] is my commitment to educating and empowering the next generation . . .” Bryant coached Gigi’s team, and even at the last moment of their lives, Bryant, Gigi, and two of her teammates were on their way to compete.
“What Kobe’s death taught me is that anything can happen to anybody,” said Timothy Munro, varsity boys basketball coach. “Wealth, status, connections, all those things that anybody has, don’t mean anything in our possible survival. It’s unfortunate that we can’t go back, and that his daughter was also on board. To the NBA guys, he was the guy that everybody watched, emulated, and practiced. They tried to copy his moves, so he was certainly that figure on the professional level. For me, I tried his work ethic. He was a fierce competitor, and he worked harder than anybody. If I want to be the best player on the court, I need to be the one who’s working the hardest, then my teammates will also follow, and so will the respect.”