Mamba Out

In the midst of tragedy, Kobe Bryant's death has brought together the entire NBA community.


Image courtesy of Writing Under the Shade of Blue

Kobe Bryant waving goodbye in his final game in Philadelphia.

Joe Eckstein, Senior Writer

Saturday, January 25th, was a night filled with celebration in the NBA. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James passed longtime mentor and friend Kobe Bryant in scoring to become the league’s third all-time leader in total points. Immediately after accomplishing this feat, James was greeted by Bryant, congratulating him on the accomplishment.

Sunday, January 26th, was a day filled with sorrow for the world. Less than 24 hours after James’s achievement, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a tragic helicopter accident. Disbelief, sadness, and anger were just some of the many emotions being expressed across the world after the news broke. I was one of the many who felt a mix of feelings. I could not fathom the fact that Kobe was no longer with us. A figure as a powerful as him, who left a lasting impact on multiple generations, gone.

Knowing how Kobe was, on and off the court, he would be furious to see everyone mourning him, rather than celebrating him. That’s what this article is meant to be. A celebration of Kobe Bryant. But it won’t just be a celebration of the athlete. Kobe was more than the basketball star. And he would be the first to tell you. After his retirement, Kobe served as a motivator for up and coming pros. Whether it was hosting a private workout with Jayson Tatum, to giving Giannis Antetokounmpo new goals every year, Bryant was still a huge factor on the game. As Michael Jordan was to him, Kobe was the one who inspired kids to lace up a pair of sneakers and step on the court. Ask current day players who they idolized, the majority will say Kobe.

As talented as Kobe was, an underrated aspect of him was his work ethic. I always loved it when these unorthodox stories came out about Kobe’s training. As farfetched as some sounded, knowing how he was, it wouldn’t surprise me. For example, someone once put up that once Kobe missed a free throw in crunch time while on the road. To overcome this, he brought a crowd of people in to boo him while he shot. Now did this happen? No. But, knowing Kobe, nothing is too extreme. Players have come out and told their own personal stories dealing with Kobe’s intensity. Take Lou Williams. During his tenure with the Lakers, Williams said that after a blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe took his signature shoe from all his teammates that were wearing them. The reasoning? Because they were, “soft.”

But out of all the things Kobe was, his biggest legacy he left on the world was his role as a father. Seeing all of the time he spent working with his daughter Gigi to become a better player was awe-inspiring. He was a proud girl dad, having three other daughters, and he enjoyed it, too. Kobe didn’t need a son to carry on his name. He knew his daughters could do that for him. In his final game, you could see Kobe smiling and winking to his family, beaming from the sideline. For all the huge scoring nights, ferocious dunks and game-winning shots, the thing that I’ll miss most about Kobe is being the best dad he could be. He wanted to be the best at everything he did, but being a father weighed heavier than the rest.

To end this article, I want to bring up the saying, “they only miss you when you’re gone.” We (myself included) didn’t appreciate Kobe until his passing. Even in his final game, I didn’t think anything of it. He’ll still be around giving advice and providing commentary. And sadly it took me until now to realize how impactful he was not for just the game, but culture. Uttering the phrase “Kobe,” while shooting a wrinkled up paper ball in the trash will never feel the same. Growing up, kids who couldn’t name a single basketball player all knew who Kobe was. He was one of the rare athletes who transcended sports. A once and a lifetime player who’s impact will last for eras. Kobe’s death is a sad reminder that we don’t know how long our idols will be here. So please, let’s end these anger-fueled debates about who is better than who. It’s okay to have discussions, but ignoring the talent of stars is just plain ignorant. It doesn’t matter who you view as the GOAT. MJ, LeBron, Kobe, or whoever you think. I’m personally done with it. All three players just mentioned are legends on their own terms. Michael was the guy of the past for the league, LeBron is the current guy, and Kobe is sandwiched in between, bridged a gap between two generations. Not many players can say they played against the league’s best player in two different eras, all while being the best at some point. In conclusion, appreciate these current stars. Appreciate LeBron. Appreciate Steph. But beyond that, appreciate those you love. You never know when they’ll be gone.