Ashna Satpathy, Staff Writer
On Sunday, January 26th, 41 year old basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna Bryant, lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with 7 other people. They were on their way to one of Gianna’s basketball games at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, taking one teammate, her parents, and a coach with them.
Kobe Bryant, also known by his self-given nickname, “Mamba,” played on the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire career from 1996 to 2016. Bryant’s achievements as a five-time NBA champion, an NBA All Star 17 times, NBA Finals MVP twice, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the fourth leading scorer in NBA history make him one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was the ultimate inspiration for any young basketball player, and his impact on the sports world will undoubtedly continue for generations.
“It’s obviously super tragic. The whole thing’s really tragic, especially for his daughter and her teammates,” says junior Eli Aronson, an avid sports enthusiast. “It’s kind of crazy because you see a lot of celebrity deaths, and deaths happen every day, but nothing to really Kobe’s extent; it was so sudden. He was a larger- than-life icon. I obviously didn’t know him personally and a lot of his fans didn’t know him personally, but that just shows the connection he had. He was the ultimate competitor and an even better person,” Eli said. Social media, in particular, saw glimpses of this “larger than life persona,” as Instagram stories swelled with pictures and videos of Kobe’s best moments on and off the court.
Similarly, junior Isaac Kim, a member of the boys varsity basketball team, was impacted by Kobe’s accomplishments as a player and his persona: “I am one of many young basketball players who bases his game off of what he did. Everyone I know who plays has been inspired by both his mamba mentality, as well as his incredible basketball skills.”
Junior Luca Craigie agrees, “I think Kobe was not only a role model as one of the best players of our era, but also as a person. Kobe’s work ethic and determination was like no other and inspired everyone to try and be their best selves.”
The late basketball player truly supported all athletes, regardless of gender. “I think Kobe was one of the greatest. I believe this because he cared about sports in general. Men’s and women’s sports. He believed in a woman’s ability to be just as good as a man” says Junior Freddi Mitchell, a member of the girls basketball team. To honor Kobe, the US Women’s Soccer Team posted a video of Kobe and two of his daughters at one of their games, where he said, “I’m here to support the US Women’s soccer team, man! They’re the best in the world! Of course we’re here, we’ve gotta show our love and our support. They’re great examples and role models for my girls, so here we are.”
Varsity basketball player Marianne Mihas was also touched by him: “Well, I was never a die-hard Kobe fan, but I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, and from age 8 or something, he was made out to be godlike. Someone like that is always going to be a subconscious role model, so his death sort of shakes you at your core.”
“I know he was looking forward to the second part of his life, away from basketball. He said this was the best time of his life. It makes you appreciate every day, because you never know what can happen,” said Eli.
In 2017, following his retirement, in partnership with Nike and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, Kobe launched the Mamba Sports league, which later turned into the Mamba Sports Academy, “a full-circle facility designed to update the way men, women and youth approach human performance, by creating a multi-platform environment that activates, educates and provides an opportunity for humans to unlock their full potential,” according to their website.
His oldest daughter, Natalia Bryant, played for the Mamba volleyball club, and he coached his late laughter, Gianna’s Bryant’s AAU Basketball team, “The Mambas.” Marianne agreed that Kobe’s career was far from over, saying “I read an ESPN article that said his death just “don’t feel like the right ending,” and I feel like that hit the nail on the head. Kobe, despite retiring, was meant to be a figure in basketball for the next 40-plus years. It’s beyond sad for someone with as much to give as Kobe to be taken away from the sport so young.”
Whether you were a follower of the NBA or not, Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba” energy was rare; his death hit almost every person in some way or another. He not only epitomized an alluring and larger-than-life persona, but he was also a husband and dad that went to his daughters’ basketball and volleyball games, and loved them just as much as the game. In an interview, Kobe mimicked Gianna when responding to people telling Kobe he needed a son to carry on his legacy: “I got this. We don’t need a boy to do that, I got this.” Although Gianna died with him, Kobe’s legacy will be carried on.