Growing up with two athletic older brothers and a sports agent for a dad, sports played a huge role in my upbringing. From being dragged to my brothers’ sports of the season to watching movies like Remember the Titans (still my favorite movie of all time) and Miracle on repeat, athletics were and continue to be very present in my family’s life. To everyone’s dismay, I didn’t exactly shine on the field…or the court…or the golf course (sorry Dad). However, the love was (and is still) there for pretty much every sport.
Kobe Bryant was a big part of that inundation to the sports world when I was little. Don’t get me wrong, being from Cleveland I was definitely LeBron over Kobe any day. However, when LeBron finally graced our city with a championship in 2016, Kobe had already been an icon for 20 years.
I remember my brothers playing basketball in the driveway as kids (I wasn’t allowed to play unless my Dad stepped in…rude) and without fail, one was always Kobe and the other was inevitably Shaq. Kids don’t just pick any player to embody in those seemingly life or death games, they pick the legend—the one that has shaped the game and will influence the way it’s played for eternity; the one whose attitude on and off the court is something to be mimicked. And let me tell you, Kobe had the attitude. I read that he once learned a few phrases in Slovenian to trash talk Luka Doncic during a game in 2019. This might seem dramatic at first glance, but it gets worse. Kobe was retired at this point. RETIRED. The man learned a new language so that he could heckle Doncic from his courtside seats. Now that’s dedication.
Kobe Bryant passed away in a tragic helicopter accident on Sunday, January 26th alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. This news seemed to hit everyone, haters and fans alike. I was shocked at how hard I took this news. There’s something about the freak accident that puts the fleeting nature of life into perspective. Kobe is not the first athlete or celebrity to pass away at a young age, but the unexpectedness of this death makes everyone stop in their tracks for a moment.
When I first saw the news, I didn’t believe it at all. I was convinced that my friend (sorry Abbey) was mistaken. I always associate Kobe with the other legends of his generation like Dwyane Wade and LeBron, who always seemed untouchable to me; not to mention his 13-year-old daughter who he seemed so close to. Even more recently, I had been seeing a lot of media attention given to Kobe and Gianna regarding her incredible basketball skills and his unwavering support. Everyone expects male athletes to have equally skilled sons; take Bronny James and Zaire Wade, for example. However, Kobe took the role of fathering four daughters in stride and with immense pride. For such an aggressive athlete on the court, this aspect juxtaposed his normal demeanor and definitely humanized him. He made the image of being surrounded by five girls in his family look incredibly cool.
In addition, he supported his daughters’ basketball careers and their dreams of making it to the WNBA, especially Gianna. They seemed to have a special bond in this area, with her constantly accompanying him to Lakers games in his courtside seats.
Kobe Bryant will be missed. He will be missed by his wife and three daughters who will undoubtedly carry on his legacy. He will be missed by devout Lakers fans who will see not one but two of his jerseys hanging in the rafters every night. He will be missed in the driveways. He will be missed every time a kid tosses up a jump shot and yells “Kobe!” Thank you for the memories, Kobe, your legacy will live on.