Remembering Kobe

Michael Caruso, Contributing Writer

In late January, former Los Angeles Lakers star shooting guard Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant died tragically and suddenly in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., along with seven other individuals. Since then, the sports world has been grieving the losses, and on Monday, Feb. 24, a memorial service was held at the Staples Center for the Laker legend and his family. The date corresponded to the basketball numbers of both Bryant and his daughter.

More than 80,000 people entered a lottery to purchase tickets to the 20,000-seat arena. Ticket revenues directly funded the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. In the first few rows were some of the biggest names in basketball, including Michael Jordan, Diana Taurasi and Shaquille O’Neal. Various individuals spoke on Bryant’s impact both on and off the court, and how he helped change the game of basketball forever. Bryant coined the phrase “Mamba mentality,” which, according to him, was “all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most.” His presence in that Lakers uniform in the earlier years of the 2000s is the reason so many people play the game today.

“In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor,” Chicago Bulls great Jordan said. “Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between him and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe. When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died.”

Bryant had influence unlike any other in the basketball world. LeBron James, Jordan and countless other basketball stars have had tremendous success from their careers, but Bryants’s was different. Bryant was a huge contributor and an avid fan of women’s basketball. Not only was he adamant about the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) deserving more attention and the players getting fair pay, but he also took time out of his post-NBA career to coach his daughter’s eighth-grade basketball team. The two were constantly together, whether it be at UConn and Oregon’s women’s basketball games, or courtside at a Lakers game with the family. Bryant’s daughter was a huge fan of basketball, and Bryant himself was a devoted father who wanted the best for his family.

“Lastly, to our daughters . . . You guys know that if you do the work, you work hard enough, dreams come true,” Bryant said during his Lakers jersey retirement in 2017. “You know that. We all know that. But hopefully what you get from tonight is those times when you wake up early and you work hard; those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when you don’t feel like working — you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself — but you do it anyway.  That is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, what you’ll see happen is that you won’t accomplish your dreams, your dreams won’t come true, something greater will. And if you guys understand that, then I’m doing my job as a father.”

Bryant left a legacy that will be followed and marveled at for generations. Personally, he was one of the first basketball players I ever watched; his afro and number eight jersey are forever engraved into my mind. He was a fierce competitor, a wonderful father, and a well-rounded, intellectual individual. Going forward, we will try to push on, because that is what he would want us to do. He inspired millions around the world, which became clear as courts were painted with Kobe images and buildings were lit up purple and gold. There are not many positives that can be taken away from this incident. Hopefully, however, it gives us the perspective we need to love and forgive those around us, because life truly is a precious thing.

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