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Kobe: A Legend and a Mentor

Daniel Singh ’21

Kobe! This is a familiar sound heard by many people, young and old, as they successfully throw whatever item they have into a bag or a bin. While doing this though, they are continuing the legacy established by Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest people to ever pick up a basketball. Kobe Bryant was not only a legendary NBA player for the Los Angeles Lakers, but also a mentor to his daughters and many of those who watched him during his career.

His career spanned 20 years and included many accomplishments that few NBA players have even been able to ponder. However, Kobe’s influence extended far beyond the scope of basketball, as he used his knowledge and resources to make a difference in the lives of people in all corners of the world. Kobe Bryant was a dedicated and determined athlete who would stop at nothing to be the greatest player that he could possibly be.

Born on Aug. 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant was the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. In 1984, Joe brought his family to Italy, where Kobe spent a portion of his adolescence and played both basketball and soccer with his older sisters Shaya and Sharia. However, Kobe would begin to break out of his shell in 1991, when he and his family returned to Philadelphia. He joined the Lower Merion High School basketball team, where he led them to four consecutive state championships.

With his sights set on playing professional basketball, Kobe decided to declare for the NBA draft, and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft and was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Immediately after signing his first contract, which had to be co-signed by his parents due to his age, Kobe began to emerge as a certified superstar in the NBA.

Being selected as an All-Star at 19, Kobe demonstrated his prowess in the NBA at an early point in his career. After establishing himself as an elite player and once again making the Lakers  a powerhouse in the league, Bryant teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal, an older but dominant center, and formed a duo that would forever alter Kobe’s legacy and the history of the NBA.

With the help of O’Neal and his other teammates, Kobe won three consecutive NBA championships from 2002 to 2004, as well as achieved a multitude of accomplishments during his 20-year tenure with the Lakers, which included two consecutive gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with the U.S., five total championships, 18 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA Team selections, 12 All-Defensive Team selections, and the Most Valuable Player award in 2008.

He also led the league in scoring twice, won the Slam Dunk challenge in 1997 and obtained 4 All-Star Game MVPs. However, while many of Kobe’s greatest accomplishments were achieved on the hardwood, he was able to cause an impact outside of his NBA career.

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On April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game, scoring 60 points in a night that no NBA fan could ever forget. This dominant “goodbye” from Bryant symbolized that, while his days of playing professional basketball were over, he would continue to impact the league and the people around him. In 2015, Bryant announced his upcoming retirement from the Lakers with a poem on The Players’ Tribune website, titled “Dear Basketball.”

A true visionary, the athletic great soon sought the best in other fields to turn his poem into a short film with the help of Disney animator Glen Keane and composer John Williams. The final result of this was a  five-minute, 20-second film, which debuted at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Oscar voters took note, leading to the unexpected sight of Bryant accepting an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 2018 ceremony.

Among his philanthropic endeavors, the basketball great partnered with the non-profit After-School All-Stars as part of the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. Additionally, Kobe ran an annual summer camp called the Kobe Basketball Academy and coached his daughter Gianna’s AAU basketball team. Kobe put his all into his endeavors, whether they were for basketball or something else, and gained a true sense of accomplishment for giving all that he could.

On January 26, 2020,  Kobe Bryant was onboard a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that crashed in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Nine people, including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died. Kobe was on his way to coach a game for his daughter’s team at Mamba Sports Academy. Upon first hearing this news, I thought that it was false information and that someone created it in order to get attention on social media. However, within the hour I discovered that the news about Kobe Bryant was, in fact, true, almost causing me to tear up in utter disbelief at his death.

For the remainder of the day, I stared at my television, watching the incoming information about the death of Kobe and all who were with him during the helicopter crash. The news sent a shock throughout people of all types all throughout the world. Despite his death, I was able to see the extent of Kobe’s impact, and that it was truly worldwide. Kobe’s death was nothing short of tragic, but it caused me to recall who Kobe was on the inside and what he stood for. He inspires many people, like myself, to continue to strive to be the best in whatever you choose to do and to always put God first and stay strong in the midst of any challenges that you will face.

 Kobe Bryant was a tireless competitor who became a global sports icon through an unrivaled work ethic and a true dedication to the game, and his legacy will never be forgotten.

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