When TMZ reported that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26, most people were hoping it was just a hoax.
But when NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed the news on his twitter, there was no going back. This was real.
Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others were heading to Gianna’s basketball practice via helicopter. The helicopter never reached its final destination, instead crashing just outside of Los Angeles, California in Calabasas, and catching on fire. There were no survivors.
Throughout his 20 years in the league, Bryant established his place in NBA history as one of the best players to ever lace up their sneakers, put on a team jersey and play on an NBA court.
Bryant’s early career was probably as typical as one can imagine a 17 year old’s role would be on an NBA team. Especially with an established team of veterans and the legacy of greatness that the Los Angeles Lakers had.
His greatness became even more clear when he helped lead the Lakers to three straight NBA championships with the help of Shaquille O’Neal and legendary coach Phil Jackson.
Bryant’s greatness never stopped there. His drive to win was never satisfied because he always looked to achieve greatness, not just for himself but for his team.
Bryant was the type of player to do whatever it took to win — in some cases, that meant taking over the game. Throughout the entirety of his career, Bryant demonstrated that he was definitely one of the few basketball players to have a clutch gene, the ability to make the right play when the game was on the line.
Even in the biggest moments of his career, when the lights were shining the brightest, Bryant proved to have ice in his veins. Never shying away from a challenge, but instead facing it head on and challenging it himself. Never crumbling when times were tough, but rising to the occasion. Never fearing the greatest players in the world, but making the greatest players fear him.
It’s as simple to say that Kobe played like Kobe. There is nobody that people can compare Bryant to because he played his own way and his own game.
During his 20-year career, Bryant stayed in a Lakers uniform—wearing number 8 for the first 10 years of his career and ending his last 10 years as number 24.
Bryant adapted nicknames throughout his career like Kobe Bean, because of his middle name, or his most famous name, The Black Mamba. Bryant was also known for his signature move, his fadeaway jumper. He also established the honor as being one of the greatest Lakers of all time.
Bryant was not just the great basketball player everyone knew and loved, but he was also a father, a husband, a brother, and a son. Bryant was the son of former NBA player Joseph Bryant and Pamela Bryant.
He was married to his wife Vanessa Bryant for 19 years and the two share four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. His 13 year old daughter Gianna shared the same love for the game of basketball as her father. Bryant was proud to share his belief that Gianna would grow up to be an amazing basketball player in the near future.
During Bryant’s lifetime, he garnered many accomplishments.
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, two-time scoring leader, one-time MVP of the league and two-time finals MVP. He also made an All-NBA team 15 times in his 20-year NBA career.
Not only was he a great offensive player, but a great defensive player as well, getting on an All-Defensive team 12 times. He also selected 15 times to an NBA All Star team. Not only did he have basketball accolades inside the NBA, but he was also a two-time Olympic Gold medalist as well, winning in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
After Bryant’s retirement from the NBA, his journey was not done.
He continued to be an inspiration for many people to come. Bryant loved the idea of teaching and storytelling to many people. He released a book in 2018 entitled The Mamba Mentality.
That same year, Bryant won another trophy but, this time, it was not for the NBA. It was an Oscar for the best animated short category. His short was based off of the poem he had written impending his retirement in 2015 called “Dear Basketball.”
The death of Bryant scarred and dumbfounded a world of sports fans. At SPU many students are grieving the loss of a man that was an icon to so many.
“Kobe was very influential in virtually any area he chose to delve into, whether it be the NBA, social media, his family and ventures outside the NBA,” Seattle Pacific University freshman Rylan Ellis said. “He was such a beloved player on and off the court and it’s such a tragedy to see him gone so soon.
Part of the fabric of SPU is its large California population. For those that grew up in the Golden State, Bryant’s death hit very close to home.
“Being from Southern California he meant a lot more, he was such a part of the community, everyone I know has a Kobe story,” freshman Andrew Macpherson said.
Even for those who did not consider themselves huge basketball or Bryant fans, his tragic death led to a moment of reflection and appreciation.
“I wasn’t a huge Kobe fan but, for some reason, when he died it was super devastating because he did a lot of good off the court stuff as well,” sophomore Nick Godoy said.
Bryant placed his mark on the game of basketball and his impact on the game will live on forever. The legacy of Kobe Bryant will live on forever — because a legend never dies.