Kobe Bryant: a tribute to a legend

Chase Glover Sports Editor [email protected]

Kobe. Bean. Bryant. A father, son, brother, husband, competitor, achiever, statement, writer, thinker, developer, hard-worker, Laker, hall-of-famer, man and a legend. The Mamba.

Kobe Bryant, 41, died abruptly on the morning of Jan. 26 from a helicopter crash. His second oldest daughter, Gianna (Gigi) Bryant, 13, perished alongside him in the crash. Both are survived by his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant and his three daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.

Bryant, Gigi and the other passengers were on their way to a youth basketball tournament at Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., before 10 a.m. They were among nine found dead after the helicopter burst into flames upon impact. Bryant flew in a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B helicopter. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, including reviewing the helicopter’s safety records. 

Bryant is remembered by the NBA community as one of the best players to ever grace an NBA jersey. He played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was the centerpiece of the team and one of the league’s most marketed players.

An 18-year-old basketball player from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Penn., Bryant took his team from a 4-20 record his freshman year to 77-13 over his final three. Bryant saw playing time at every position on the floor from the start of his freshman year. He became the first freshman to play for the Lower Merion Aces in decades.

Going into his senior year, he amassed a stat line of 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists while garnering the Pennsylvania Player of the Year award and also becoming a Fourth-Team Parade All-American.

The Pennsylvania native attracted many scouts and teams from across the nation, including North Carolina, Michigan, Villanova and Duke. 

During his senior year he lead the Aces to a 31-3 record and won the Pennsylvania State Championship, the first in 53 years for the school. He averaged 30.8 PPG, 12 RPG, 6.5 APG, 4 SPG and 3.8 BPG for the team. He cemented himself as the all-time scorer in the Southeastern Pennsylvania area with 2,883 points, surpassing Lionel Simmons and Wilt Chamberlain.

Before 2005, players had the option to enter the NBA straight out of high school. During high school, Bryant saw his friend Kevin Garnett go to the NBA Draft and become the fifth overall selection to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bryant followed Garnett’s path and declared for the NBA draft, forgoing 

Bryant, a 13th overall selection of the Charlotte Hornets was swiftly traded away to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac. He became the first guard ever selected straight out of high school.

The Lakers traded Divac a day before the draft to the Hornets for the 13th overall selection. Los Angeles began trying to clear cap space for the 1992 first overall pick, Shaquille O’Neal. They never thought of taking Kobe Bryant with the pick but then-owner, Jerry West, made the call minutes before the pick took place.

Kobe saw limited minutes in his first year with LA but still turned heads in his rookie season. He became the youngest player to ever play and start in an NBA game. He also won the Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend, making him the youngest to ever accomplish the task.

After the drafting of Bryant and signing of O’Neal in the previous offseason, the Lakers wanted to compete for championships. The LA front office placed Phil Jackson into the head coaching vacancy in 1999. Jackson, the father of the triangle offense, came with a long list of results after winning six championships with Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. 

After the acquisition of Jackson, the Lakers wasted no time as they won three NBA Finals in a row to secure three-peat as champions. This made Bryant and O’Neal one of the most deadly guard-center duos in the league. 

After the three-peat, Bryant and company lost the next year in the Western Conference Semifinal to the Los Angeles Clippers. In that offseason, the Lakers signed Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the hopes to make another Finals push.

The lineup of Bryant, Payton, Malone and O’Neal was enough to make the Finals but not enough to overcome the Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace led Pistons. After this season, the Lakers made several changes.

The Lakers would not renew Phil Jackson’s contract but would trade O’Neal to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant. After an enticing offer from the LA Clippers, Kobe decides to come back on a seven-year contract to play with the Lakers.

After the departing of head coach Phil Jackson and supporting member Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant became scrutinized by his teammates and media due to believing that Kobe dismembered the team. 

With Bryant in full control, he became the soul of the Lakers team. In his first full year without O’Neal, he posted stat lines of 62 and 81 points coming against the Mavericks (2005) and Raptors (2006). His 81-point game would become the most ever by a Laker and only second most in NBA history by the famed 100-point performance from Chamberlain.

The Lakers make it back to the NBA Finals during the 2008 season against the Boston Celtics. The team, made up of the big three of Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. Ray Allen also was a very strong player for the Celtics. LA would eventually lose in six games to Boston, sending Bryant and Pau Gasol heading home.

After a seven-year drought, the Bryant led Lakers made it back to a Finals series where they achieved the ultimate goal of winning. They would defeat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in only five games. 

In the 2010 offseason, Kobe made due and resigned with the Lakers for a three-year, $87 million contract. Bryant and Gasol made it back-to-back years to the Finals, this time against the Boston Celtics would beat them two years prior. 

The series would go to seven games where Bryant brought the Lakers back in the fourth quarter to hold on for his fifth championship. However, Bryant kept seeking more during his career. 

As a competitor, he wanted to match Jordan’s total with six championships. When his fifth championship ended, Bryant looked to keep competing, however he became plagued with injuries. In his final few years, he fractured his left knee and he also tore his achilles. 

Kobe played his final game in his 20th season for the Lakers against the Utah Jazz. In his final moments, he dropped an astounding 60 points to end his career at 37 years old. This did not change throughout the year, as the team ended with a 17-65 record, the worst in franchise history. 

During his dazzling career, he was an 18-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, two-time All-NBA Third Team, nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, four-time MVP, five-time NBA Finals Champion, three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team, two-time NBA scoring champion, NBA Slam Dunk champion, NBA All-Rookie Second Team and Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer.

He now is fourth all-time on the All-Time Scorers list with 33,643 points after Lebron James passed him the night before his death. 

In 2016, his retirement became heard around the world. However his life went way beyond basketball, in the sense of his teachings. Kobe hosted his own ‘Mamba Sports Academy’ where many current NBA basketball players came to learn and be taught by Bryant. He also helped coach his daughter GiGi for her girl’s basketball team.

Past basketball, Kobe also was a writer and filmmaker. He won an Oscar for a film called “Dear Basketball” which developed from a poem that he wrote himself. He also wrote the book  “The Wizenard Series: Training Camp,” which hit the number one best selling book at one point. 

Bryant made sure his impact was felt by many, he touched lives through basketball but also through his off the court actions. On the day of his death, many teams continued on with their games that were scheduled. Teams such as the Atlanta Hawks took an eight-second backcourt violation to honor Bryant and his time he wore the number eight jersey. 

Players like Trae Young also commemorated Kobe by gracing the number eight jersey during their game. Many players overflowed with emotions such as the San Antonio Spurs guard Demar Derozan who wept with tears before the start of his game. 

His impact went past the game of basketball with all programs cherishing his life by posting a statement about his life and how it changed people. Such platforms as the MLB, NBA, Alabama Football, NFL and several players made announcements to what Kobe meant to them. 

As he passes, his influence among young players and kids will forever live amongst them. There are heroes and legends; Kobe Bryant is a legend, not a hero. As they say, heroes get remembered but legends never die. 

At the end of his final game in his career, Bryant took halfcourt to make one last speech for the fans. He looks into the eyes of the fans, blows them a kiss, and boldly states, “Mamba out.” He drops the mic and then walks off-court to be with his family. 

His fans hope that he left Earth the exact same way, rest-in-peace Kobe.