The tragic and sudden death of American basketball hero, Kobe Bryant, has sent shockwaves throughout the sporting world. Bryant, alongside his thirteen year-old daughter, Gianna, died when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in Calabasas, California on 26th January. Seven other people also died in the crash, and although the investigation is still ongoing, it is believed that low fog and poor visibility led to crash.
In the eyes of many people, Bryant was considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and throughout his twenty season professional career for the Los Angeles Lakers, he racked up a breathtaking set of individual and team awards.
Bryant won five NBA Championships, was an 18-time “All Star”, a 15-time member of the “All-NBA Team”, a 12- time member of the “All-Defensive Team” and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP winner.
He played as a shooting guard, where his main objection was to score points for his team and steal the ball in defence. Michael Jordan, the greatest NBA player of all time also played this position, and whilst Bryant didn’t quite reach his dazzling heights, Bryant is widely viewed as one of the best ever in this position.
The LA Lakers won consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, although the subsequent year was sourly marked by the feuding between Bryant and his Lakers’ teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, ultimately resulting in the sale of O’Neal to Miami Heat, whilst Bryant stay put in Los Angeles and remained the focal point of the Lakers team right up until his retirement in 2016.
Despite their differences and disputing, O’Neal and Bryant’s rather public fall out only really concerned Basketball, and the pair remained close off the court. Upon hearing news of his death, O’Neal remarked that “My spirit just left my body, I just wish I could be able to say one thing, one last thing to the people we lost.”
Bryant’s post-basketball career also brought him success, and his wide array of talents, his charisma and his global appeal all contributed to an enterprising and lucrative commercial career for him. In the world of business, Bryant and his partner Jeff Stibel launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capitalist firm that invested in a huge array of different businesses, with over $100 million in funding. Moreover, in 2018 Bryant made the film Dear Basketball, and in doing so he became the first African American to win the Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film.
To put bluntly, his legacy of hard work breeding success, and his so called “mamba mentality’ have cemented Bryant’s place in the history books, as he grew to become a global superstar.
Sport has the wonderful power of being a unifying force amongst people from all different backgrounds, and in recent years the NBA has seen a huge growth overseas. For many people, Kobe Bryant was far more than the LA Lakers shooting guard. He was an inspiration, a leader, a talisman, and as the details of the crash have so tragically reminded us; a family man too. Far more than just a great basketball player was lost on 26th January, and in the following days as TV anchors, former teammates, presidents’ and even Italian football clubs amongst many others all paid tribute to him, the enormous impact Kobe Bryant left on this world began to be realised.
Editor’s Note: We would like it to be mentioned that Kobe Bryant was credibly accused of raping a woman in 2003. In the criminal case, he was acquitted. In a seperate civil case, he apologised to his accuser, his family, and the public, while continuing to deny that the sex act, which he admitted to, was nonconsensual.
Image rights: dackelprincess via Flickr