Zach Gotlieb | January 30th, 2020
On Sunday morning, the world lost an icon. An idol to so many people across the globe. Kobe Bryant was among nine people that died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. Words can’t truly express what happened.
I remember the 2009 Western Conference Finals. The only time the Denver Nuggets have made it to the WCF in my lifetime. Of course, it had to be against the Lakers. Of course, we had to play against Kobe. The man who ruined dreams. Carmelo Anthony was amazing, but Kobe was on a different planet. He owned the Nuggets. I was at the games when they played in Denver. The environment, as always, was incredible. I remember it so vividly. Every time Kobe touched the ball, he got booed. Every. Single. Time. It was out of hate. Hate for all of the best reasons. We knew that every time he touched the ball, we’d be down by more than we were before. Even if they didn’t score, somehow, we were down more than we were before. Denver put up a good fight but eventually lost in 6 games. Kobe and the Lakers went on to win the Finals that season.
I know that just about everybody did it. Whether it was on the basketball court, the classroom throwing crumpled up papers into the trash can. Make or miss, there was always one unifying word. “Kobe!!” Every time, in elementary school, we’d pull up and chuck a prayer of a shot you’d hear it. “Kobe!!” For Kobe, it was part his ‘shooters shoot’ “Mamba Mentality.” He’d make some ridiculous shot and just get back on defense. For us, if we made the shot, the game stopped to celebrate. He may be disappointed in the fact that we took the time to celebrate, but this wasn’t our day job. We did it cause we felt, for just one second, like we were him. Our idol.
Kobe played 20 years in the NBA, spending his whole career with the Los Angeles Lakers. In that time, he was a 17-time All-Star, 2-time Olympic Gold medalist, and a 5-time champion among many many more accolades. He was a killer (in a basketball way, of course). The type that made you fear seeing the number 8 or eventually the number 24 in that Lakers purple and gold. You just knew that there was no way he was going to let his team lose. In basketball, we always talk about the clutch instinct. The killer mentality. Kobe was the embodiment of that. There are just so many examples of it. It was only fitting that his last game embodied his whole career. He dropped 60 points, including the daggers that put the Lakers over the Utah Jazz. Truth is, none of that mattered.
Kobe Bryant embodied the very best things about a person. The greatest competitor. A tireless worker. An outstanding father. Just an incredible person. He was a superhero to all. Yes, he may have had his spots and made some mistakes, ones that shouldn’t be glossed over, but he proved that people can change.
He had four daughters. Possibly the most devastating part of the accident was hearing about the fact that one of his daughters was in the crash. His 13-year-old, Gianna. Natalia, his oldest daughter, is a volleyball player. Gianna was the basketball player. The heir to Kobe’s massive throne. Even at 13, she already had all of the tools to be an amazing basketball player. She possessed the very things that Kobe had. Skill, but also the mentality. She already has the killer instinct. The belief that it doesn’t matter who you were, she was going to beat you. Most importantly, she had the undying support of her father.
Their bond came from basketball. After retirement, Kobe took time away from basketball. It was Gianna who brought him back the league. Her love of the game and her ambition. Kobe saw it too. There’s a clip that’s been going viral in recent days when he’s talking about his legacy and his kids taking the torch with Jimmy Kimmel.
“This kid, man. I’m telling you. The best thing that happens is when we go out, and fans will come up to me, and she’ll be standing next to me. They’ll be like ‘hey, you got to have a boy. You and V[anessa]. You gotta have a boy to carry on your tradition, the legacy.’ And she’s like ‘oye, I got this. Ain’t no boy for that. I got this.’ And I’m like, that’s right. Yes, you do. You got this,” Bryant said to Jimmy Kimmel.
Gianna dreamed of going to UCONN. One of the most dominant teams in recent history. Then eventually to the WNBA. People believed she would be the unifying force to bring the NBA and WNBA simply because of the legacy that she brought along with the legacy she was creating for herself.
Players believed that Kobe could have ended up being the commissioner of the WNBA. He’s become an ambassador for the game. He’s done everything to try and build up a game that hasn’t been as popular as it should be.
I’ll end it with this, This doesn’t feel real. Kobe Bryant was literally a superhero. Like Superman. He may have had 23 years on me, but he was supposed to outlive me. An immortal. The fact that we have to wake up in a world without the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, is devastating and doesn’t feel real.
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