Lakers’ Legend Kobe Bryant Dies at 41

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By: Lucas Carr | lcarr15@radford.edu

Former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard, Kobe Bryant, was among those who perished in a fiery helicopter crash on Jan. 26. He was just 41 years old. Though the investigation is ongoing, there were a total of nine victims in the crash, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Bryant was taking his private helicopter to Gianna’s private basketball game when it flew into some heavy fog that morning around 10 a.m. The pilot was unable to gain control of the helicopter and came down in Los Angeles County. A brush fire caused by the crash prevented any first responders from reaching the crash site immediately. Bryant and his daughter are survived by Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and his three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

Bryant will be remembered for his outstanding achievements in the NBA and will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.

He began playing professionally at the age of 18 and spent his 20-year career with the Lakers. He was the youngest player in NBA history at the time of his debut in 1996.

Bryant is fourth on the NBA’s all-time scorer list with a total of 33,643 points and is a five-time NBA champion. He was named Most Valuable Player during the NBA finals two out of those five championship seasons. He was an 18-time all-star and made the All-NBA First Team 11 times while also becoming a nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player. Bryant is also a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.

Kobe Bryant was not only impactful in the game of basketball, but he held stock in many other aspects of life as well. He was awarded an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his animated telling of his poem ‘Dear Basketball’ in 2018. Bryant’s influence has spread around the world, transcending the hardwood by being an inspiration to so many people from all walks of life.

But most notably, Bryant was a family man. He was a brilliant father, always engaging with his children and recognizing all of their true potentials. He wanted what was best for his daughters and wanted them to grow up to be whatever they wanted to be. Gianna was an aspiring basketball player just like her father, and it serves to show that he has inspired so many young athletes to follow in those same footsteps. Some of those young athletes Bryant has influenced have grown to play in the NBA today.

One of his most influential quotes reflects that same aspect. He stated, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.”

The news of Kobe Bryant’s passing spread so quickly it was hard to keep up with what was happening. Social media was flushed with sadness and grief from current and former players such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kawhi Leonard. Influential people outside of the basketball sphere such as Barack Obama, Stephen King, Tiger Woods, Mark Hamill, and many others have also taken to express their feelings towards this devastating loss.

The NBA teams that played Sunday, Jan. 26, honored Bryant by taking 24-second shot clock violations (Bryant’s jersey number later in his career was 24) on each side to begin their games. An overwhelming sense of community has sprouted throughout the NBA.

Kobe Bryant has impacted almost every young athlete, and he inspired me one of the first times I put on a basketball uniform. In sixth grade, I took to wearing his number to honor his grit, competitiveness, and love for the game of basketball. Wearing the number 24 on my front and back was a way for me to show others how much he meant to me during my short-lived playing career.

I will always remember the game when Kobe tore the Achilles tendon in his left foot. However, he still made both of his free throws before walking off the court and sitting out the rest of the game. That determination and heart will always stick with me and give me motivation whenever I need it.

Kobe Bryant inspired an entire generation of kids like me to ball up a piece of paper and yell ‘Kobe!’ as they sank their shot into a trashcan. That’s the type of legacy he has left behind. He has taught us to live our lives, being the best we can be and inspire others.

Kobe Bryant. That is a name synonymous with greatness, greatness as a basketball player, greatness as a father, and greatness as a man. I am sending my heart out to the Bryant family, and everyone mourning the loss of this great man and his daughter.

Featured Image: (Fred Kearney on Unsplash)