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I wanted to write this article not only to memorialize Kobe, but also to express my own feelings and memories of Kobe. As someone who grew up in California, I wanted to share his relationship with Los Angeles to an East Coast audience who may be more removed from his fame.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were lost in a helicopter accident on January 26th that also killed seven others: John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan. I was especially struck that Kobe’s daughter, Gianna, was also on board the helicopter. I cannot imagine how the Bryant family must feel losing not only a father, but a daughter and sister. My dad called me in the afternoon the day of the crash, just to check in and tell me he loves me, and the emotions really hit me in that moment. Kobe was a worldwide legend, but at the end of the day he was just a dad. The story is heartbreaking.

It feels a little weird being so affected by the death of someone I didn’t even know, but I did know him. Growing up, my family watched countless Laker games and interviews. My grandma would come over for dinner and watch with us. My dad would come home from work and frantically warn us not to tell him the score if the game had been recorded, especially during the playoffs. I’m sure this was the case with many families across Los Angeles.

It’s hard not being at home in LA right now while the community is grieving. Living all the way on the East Coast, I feel somewhat isolated in my mourning. My friend told me everyone has been wearing their Lakers gear and hanging jerseys, flags, and signs outside as tribute, and I wish I could be a part of that. People across the nation, and the world, recognize Kobe as a legend, but his impact is strongest in Los Angeles.

Kobe had a twenty-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. During which he won five NBA championships: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010. Though I wasn’t old enough to remember the early 2000’s victories, my dad often reminisced about the dynamic duo Kobe and Shaq. The back-to-back 2009 and 2010 victories were an exciting time, especially in 2010 when the Lakers beat the hated Boston Celtics; I remember my whole family was glued to the TV that series, watching Kobe do what he did best. 

I so admired his dedication to the game. A standout moment of his career was when he tore his Achilles tendon on a foul, then walked up to the line and shot two clutch free throws. I was amazed, yet not surprised, at his tenacity and strength in that moment. He had a fire inside him and a relentless commitment to winning. Kobe had countless highlights, like when he scored eighty-one points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, or when he dropped sixty during his farewell game in 2016. I remember watching that game, thinking about the end of an era, yet knowing that Kobe’s work in the basketball community was not finished.

Kobe wasn’t known as simply a star athlete, as he was passionate about charity in the years following his basketball career. His Mamba Sports Foundation helps fund sports programs for boys and girls in “underserved communities,” and his other philanthropic work helped underprivileged, homeless, and terminally ill children in Los Angeles and across the country. He was just getting started with his life outside the NBA, including training the next generation of athletes. I especially admired his dedication to women’s sports and his support of his daughters’ athletic ambitions. It’s so important for little girls to feel validation in programs that are usually perceived to be for boys, and I loved that Kobe was so adamant about that.

Kobe was the epitome of hard work and determination for a generation, and his memory will live on in those he inspired. He will be so missed in Los Angeles and the greater basketball community.

Julia is a senior at Colby College majoring in Government and Art History. She is originally from the Los Angeles area but has been enjoying her time in snowy Maine. Julia is a Captain of Colby Dance Company, a Student Guide at the Colby Museum of Art, a Voting Captain Organizer for Colby Votes, and the Marketing Director of Her Campus at Colby. Her other interests include playing guitar, making art, and always thinking of a third thing when listing stuff.  
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