He transcended the game. He meant so much to so many. A man who, alongside his incredible achievements, was first and foremost a father. The death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna has, and will forever, leave a hole in the basketball community. Along with Kobe and Gianna, there were seven others who died in this disastrous helicopter crash in Calabasas.
The truly sickening circumstances of his death leave millions around the world grieving because his legacy is so powerful. Few athletes have had the worldwide reach that Kobe had, and the cultural impact of his 20-year career and beyond is something that will live on.
This wasn’t supposed to be the ‘Mamba Out’ we’d all hoped for. Kobe was still a figurehead for all of basketball and continued to leave his mark on the game in the years after his retirement in 2016, being one of the biggest advocates of the women’s game as well as being involved in the NBA’s global development.
Personally, I wasn’t old enough to follow basketball for the years in which Kobe’s Lakers dominated the NBA. The three-peat after the turn of the millennium, the iconic 81-point game in Toronto and the career-defining fifth ring in 2010; I simply wasn’t old enough to remember these immense feats in any great detail. But I can certainly appreciate them and the impact he had on sport in this period.
My fondest Kobe memories date back to when I first began watching the NBA, in fact one of my first memories of any NBA game at all. April 12, 2013, with the Lakers down two at the Staples Center against the Warriors, Kobe cripples to the ground in pain after suffering a torn achilles. After pulling himself off of the hardwood, he proceeded to hobble towards the free throw line and sink both shots to bring the game level.
LA went onto win the game, but this individual moment is the first time I truly got to experience the ‘Mamba mentality’ that Kobe prided himself on. Albeit at a point where his career was beginning to wind down, this memory of the resilience and mental toughness of a man who I only really knew because of the highlight reel dunks and countless accolades, is something I’ll never forget.
It wasn’t a career defining moment of Kobe’s career when you consider the 18 All-Star appearances, two scoring titles and five NBA titles. But it’s a moment that I personally will always associate with the Black Mamba and, along with the spine-tingling final game 60-point outburst, it is one of my few incredible Kobe Bryant memories.
Despite not having extensive memories of Kobe on the court, the few I do have stay with me and allow me to feel the resounding impact he had on the game of basketball.
He inspired a whole generation of young people like me, even in the final few chapters of his career and of his life. Kobe still had so much to offer the world and the suddenness of his death is felt across the globe.
Beyond basketball, his visibly unbreakable connection with his daughters, particularly Gianna, is what makes their loss so heart wrenching.
Kobe will always be remembered as an incredible basketball player, but beyond just basketball he was able to touch the world.
Thank you, Kobe.
Archie weirdly found his passion for basketball in the first season of The Process and happily endured his teenage years watching the likes of Jakarr Sampson and Furkan Aldemir in an historically terrible run for the Sixers. Since his lack of height makes playing hoops tricky, writing about the sport seemed the next best thing.