On Sunday afternoon, the world was shocked by the news of sports icon Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing in a helicopter accident. Bryant was one of 9 people who perished in the crash, along with his 13 year old daughter Gianna. Kobe, who had just been passed by Lebron James for third place in NBA career points, was just beginning the second act of his life. He was writing books, enjoying retirement, and most importantly, being a very active coach and dad to his four daughters.
In the hours after his death, thousands of posts honouring him on social media were made. It was clear that Kobe was more than just a basketball player, he was an athlete that all other athletes looked up to, and someone that even non-athletes were inspired by. He was a Los Angeles icon and a hero to so many. Whether it was basketball players dribbling the ball for 24 seconds to start games in his honour, a tribute video made by an NHL franchise, or soccer star Neymar honouring Kobe with a goal celebration, the sports world as a whole was severely damaged. Tributes for the fallen star and his daughter have ranged from Los Angeles to Vancouver to the Philippines and back again. Millions of people have signed a petition to make him the new logo of the NBA, and franchises are already retiring the numbers 8 and 24. There’s no argument that Sunday, January 26th, was one of the saddest and most impactful days in sports history.
The main reason Kobe garnered so much respect from all over the world was because for his whole career, he was known firstly as a competitor. He would tell stories of how he would get up at 4am to go to the gym and practice, have breakfast, and then get right back to the gym. In team practices, he pushed teammates past their limits and never took a day off. Kobe was the guy who tore his achilles, shot his free throws, and walked to the bench under his own power. This type of ferocious approach to life was ultimately coined the “mamba mentality”, and inspired the next generation of athletes who wanted to be just like him and taught them the importance of work ethic. However, mamba mentality is important to so much more than sports, and this way of thinking may be the most important piece to Kobe’s legacy. He famously said that “the most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” Mamba mentality wasn’t just about sports for him, it was how he lived his life. It’s how he made 18 all star games, won 5 NBA championships, and why he is widely regarded as one of the best to ever do it. It’s also how he gained success after retirement, and coached his daughter’s basketball teams to championships.
So if there’s one thing we can thank Kobe for besides all of the great memories and triumphs, it’s for showing millions of kids like me that if you work hard enough for what you want, a dream can become reality. It’s for this reason that he inspired so many, was so important to the sporting community, and why he will continue to inspire long into the future.
Rest in peace to a legend, his amazingly talented daughter, and everyone else aboard the helicopter that day.
“Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.” – Kobe Bryant.