By Liam Day and Justin Robertson
On January 26th, 2020, the basketball community and the entire world lost an icon in Lakers’ star, Kobe Bryant. The forty one year old legend was killed in a tragic helicopter crash in Malibu California, along with his thirteen year old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
Originally reported by TMZ at 2:24 P.M. eastern standard time, the news of Kobe’s death quickly spread from a rumor to a story covered by hundreds of news outlets across the globe. A countless amount of sports fans could not believe the news. Tweets poured in from NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Dwayne Wade, politicians Barack Obama and President Trump, talk show hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Kimmel, and millions of more shocked, distraught people. As more and more details became available to the public, the world soon was able to realize the full extent of the helicopter crash. Prior to an official news conference by the Los Angeles fire department and police chiefs, it was believed that there were only five total casualties, two of which were Kobe and Gianna, however the police chief's initial report claimed there were nine passengers aboard the helicopter, all of which were confirmed dead later on in the investigation.
Glenelg Girls Varsity basketball coach, David Ebbe, said, “I was shocked and in complete disbelief, and I was really hoping that it was a false rumor… Eventually, when I saw the corroboration of the tragedy by other sources, I was deeply saddened, particularly when I learned that Gianna was on the helicopter too.”
Kobe Bryant's legacy expanded far past his retirement. Whether it was holding camps teaching future generations the basics of basketball, or writing novels passing on his knowledge of basketball, work ethic, and even living life. He began his retirement by hosting his own segment on ESPN called “Detail”, where he broke down the game of star players in the NBA and described why they were so effective. Kobe was seen on rare occasions holding workouts with rising stars in the league such as Victor Oladipo, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker. Probably the most impactful loss of Kobe Bryant to the NBA will be his knowledge. Boys Basketball Varsity captain, Jack Walsh, emphasized that “Kobe showed that he was more than a basketball player and the tools he used to be successful in basketball directly translated into his everyday life. [Such as] being a great father and friend to so many people who, at one point, may have only seen him as an athlete. He taught me to dedicate myself to anything I’m passionate about.” Kobe’s passion, insight and knowledge of the game has influenced players and future generations just four years after retirement and his impact would have been limitless.
Following his retirement from professional basketball, Kobe took tremendous pride in the best father he could be to his four daughters, and especially to Gianna. Kobe took Gianna to a Laker game a couple years after retiring, and as Kobe describes it, “we just had so much fun because for the first time, I was seeing the game through her eyes.” As recently as December of last year, Kobe was spotted courtside with Gianna at a Brooklyn Nets game, breaking down the game to his daughter who was aspiring to play professional basketball in the future. Ebbe said, “I think it was great for girls basketball to have one of the the all-time best NBA players so heavily involved in our sport. It’s incredibly tragic that we will never get to see how far Gianna would have progressed as a basketball player, and to also see how Kobe would have coached, mentored, and supported her along the way.” Kobe was not just a great basketball player. He was a great father who wanted nothing more than to see his daughters succeed in life, and that is why his death is so hard to acknowledge and cope with.
Since the helicopter crash there has been plenty of media coverage regarding Kobe and Gianna’s deaths. One story that has truly inspired many is ESPN’s Elle Duncan’s anecdote about meeting Kobe. Duncan only met Kobe one time, but the interaction between the basketball legend and the ESPN analyst is eye-opening. During their brief talk, Kobe said to Duncan that “without hesitation I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.” A girl dad. Three words that did not have much significance prior to the incident in California, but Duncan’s statement started a movement on social media that spread pride and integrity through the hashtag “girldad.” Thousands of posts on Twitter and Instagram had pictures of fathers with their daughters, along with the hashtag. Although the events that caused this social media buzz were tragic, people are beginning to express joy and happiness through their loved ones, and specifically their daughters. Glenelg’s Varsity boy’s basketball coach, Alex Blazek, said, “Having a daughter of my own, this really hits home for me. [Putting a bigger emphasis on women’s basketball] is something I think about all the time.” With this movement, it appears that women’s basketball is on the right track towards more recognition and funding.
One of the phrases that Kobe preached to Gianna and his fans was “Mamba Mentality.” In short, the phrase simply means putting in maximum effort in whatever task you are doing. Kobe applied that phrase to everything he did in life. From winning five NBA championships to raising his family, he truly tried his best. Glenelg Varsity Girls basketball player, Sophia Salafia, said that Kobe and Gianna “taught people that if you are willing to work hard and be dedicated you can achieve your dreams.” One part of Kobe that will never die is his perspective on life and that no moment should be wasted if you want something that you are willing to work for.
With Kobe Bryant gone, the legacy he has left behind can and will only inspire future generations to live up to his image. Although the footprint Kobe left on the sports world through his success on the court had already made him a legend, the positive influence he had on the lives of so many people will never be overshadowed.
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