In Memoriam: Kobe Bryant
Last Sunday, the world was shocked to learn of the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Bryant was traveling in a helicopter to a youth basketball game when it suddenly crashed, killing him, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna and seven other people. The helicopter Bryant was in originally took off from John Wayne Airport located in Orange County, California and was expected to land near Mamba Sports Academy, a sports facility that was owned by Bryant, located in Newbury Park, California. Bryant was supposed to coach a basketball game that his daughter was supposed to play in.
Word regarding Bryant’s untimely demise spread quickly. As soon as the unfortunate news reached Staples Center during a dress rehearsal for the Grammy Awards, the workers in the arena quickly moved Bryant’s rafter jerseys side by side and covered the other retired jerseys with curtains. Soon, the legend’s number 8 and number 24 stood juxtaposed.
Following the news of this tragic accident, the NBA decided to postpone the Laker’s next game on Tuesday against the Clippers, out of respect for Bryant. On Monday, the league released a statement: “The National Basketball Association game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Staples Center has been postponed. The decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is deeply grieving the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday.”
Many in the basketball world gave statements proclaiming their condolences. NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said in a statement, “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna… We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.” Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan said, “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”
Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal tweeted the Sunday of the tragedy, “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
Students at Yeshiva University also felt sorrow at Bryant’s passing. Los Angeles native, Ben Goldstein (SSSB, ‘22) told The Commentator, “Kobe was a piece of every LA kids’ childhood. There was nothing like putting on your number 24 jersey and watching Kobe be Kobe. A piece of Los Angeles died on Sunday and nothing can replace that.”
Bryant was born in Philadelphia in 1978. He achieved great success, winning many national awards as a senior at Lower Merion High School, located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He then decided to skip college and join the NBA straight out of high school. In the 1996 NBA Draft, he was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, but was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, his favorite team growing up.
Bryant leaves behind an amazing career. In 1997, he became the youngest player to win the slam dunk competition at the age of 18. He then led the Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. On Jan. 22, 2005, he scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second-most points ever scored in a single game, behind only Wilt Chamberlain's historic 100 point game in 1962. During the 2006 NBA season, Bryant became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964 to score 45 or more points in four consecutive games. He went on to lead the league in scoring that season as well as the next. Bryant then led the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, winning NBA Finals MVP both times.
The passing of one of the greatest players to play basketball will not be forgotten. Bryant’s 20 seasons were all an action-packed showcase of his ability to dominate the game. He will always be a paradigm for aspiring basketball players and cheering fans. From young athletes wearing his jersey on the court to students who toss their scrap paper in the trash while yelling “KOBE,” and all others who hope to emulate his athletic gifts, the “Black Mamba” has left a lasting mark in the hearts of many. May his legacy live on.
Photo Caption: A mural of Kobe Bryant looming large
Photo Credit: Pixabay