Kobe Bryant: More than Basketball

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Carter Moore

NBA icon Kobe Bryant's legacy extends far beyond his time on the court.

Russell Thompson, Guest Contributor

Kobe: a name said every time a kid is sitting in class and throws a paper ball at a trash can, a name synonymous in the basketball world with greatness, a name that makes you stop and think… a legend.

On Sunday, Jan. 26, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianni, along with seven others, were in a helicopter heading for the Mamba Sports Academy for a travel basketball game when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas, Calif., killing all nine passengers.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the world has been stunned over the loss of such an amazing player, and several teams have been honoring him this week around the league. Many teams have taken 8 and 24 (his jersey numbers) second violations to start games since Sunday. The Philadelphia 76ers honored Kobe’s number 33 jersey that he wore while playing for Lower Merion High School. The Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban decided to retire Kobe’s number 24 so that no other Maverick may wear the number. There is even a petition going around the league to change the NBA logo to a silhouette of Bryant. 

The league is reeling from the loss with many players sending out support and condolences to Kobe’s family, and many professional athletes in different sports are sharing their favorite, “Mamba Memories.” 

As someone who idolized Kobe, I learned first from him that sheer talent is not enough. You have to work everyday in order to “secure your spot” in whatever it is you want to do. Bryant made the point that he would work out sometimes up to five times a day in order to hone his skills. He influenced me in a way that is difficult to put into words. Kobe made me want to better myself as a football player, a power lifter, a band member, a student and a person. He taught me the value of hard work. 

Kobe grew up in Philadelphia, Penn. and attended Lower Merion High School. While at Lower Merion, Kobe had an illustrious career. His freshman year, his team went 4-20. Once he reached his junior year he had burst onto the national scene, averaging 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. His senior year, he put together another lights out season averaging 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals and 3.8 blocked shots per game. His senior year, Kobe led his team to their first state title since 1943. Bryant emerged as the best high school player in the country. 

He could have gone to college anywhere and left everyone guessing as to whether or not he may go straight to the pros. Kobe decided that he would do the latter, and in 1996, he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th overall pick in the NBA draft. After being drafted, the Hornets traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Bryant quickly became a fan favorite and, in 1997, won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Bryant’s career with the Lakers was nothing short of legendary. While in Los Angeles, Kobe was an 18-time All-Star, 12-time member All-Defensive Team, 15-time All-NBA team member, and 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP). 

He was a five-time NBA champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, atwo-time Finals MVP. He led the NBA in scoring twice, put himself in the fourth all time scoring spot and accumulated enough points in the playoffs to be the fourth highest postseason scorer. He spent all 20 of his years in the NBA with the Lakers. 

Kobe became known for his “iso” style of basketball. When he was on the court, he was playing one-on-one. Often, he was playing one-on-two, as teams would put two defenders on Kobe just to slow him down. Bryant pioneered this style of offense, and this inspired players from streetball to the NBA. Once Kobe retired in 2016, the Lakers retired both jersey numbers that he had worn while playing, 8 and 24.

Kobe became famous for his “Mamba Mentality.” In his words, this mindset is described as “just trying to get better every day. It’s the simplest form of just trying to get better at whatever you’re doing.” 

Bryant’s legacy, however, extends beyond the basketball court. In 2007, Kobe launched the VIVO foundation, which is now known as The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant foundation. The foundation, per its mission statement, is a foundation to provide youths with international experiences and encourages them to remain interested in sports. The foundation provides scholarships to students at the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy in Los Angeles. 

Kobe is survived by his other two daughters, Natalia and Bianka, and his wife, Vanessa. The Black Mamba, however, survives with the sport of basketball. He survives with anyone who throws a paper ball into a trash can and calls upon his name to make the shot. Kobe survives with everyone: every kid that he has helped, every person that he has inspired and everyone who has ever seen him play basketball. Kobe Bean Bryant is a legend on and off the court.

Go ahead and shoot that paper ball into the trash can, and do it for, “KOBE!”