The sports world was hit with devastating news on Sunday morning as it was reported that former Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant died after a helicopter with him and three others crashed in Calabasas, California. It has shaken things to the core to see one of the most beloved professional athletes in the world pass away at age 41. It’s hard to put into words or comprehend Bryant’s sudden death that has left many fans, colleagues, friends, family, or admirers of his work on and off the court in utter shock.
I, myself, being a lifelong Lakers fan, am left speechless. Unlike previous pieces, this one will take a more personal turn away from the typical article as it cuts more profoundly than anything before that I have ever written.
Kobe Bryant’s impact on fans
Growing up in the Los Angeles area, what drew me to sports as a child growing up in the 1990s were the Lakers. That saw Bryant headline a young and emerging team alongside Shaquille O’Neal.
It was during this time that he ingrained himself and cemented his legacy in Lakers’ lore and fans all over with the tremendous amount of success he had on the court with a three-peat of NBA titles. That was the most impressionable time for me as a fan and many other youth at that age that made him an icon in the NBA and sports in general. My generation of fans had the utmost respect for Bryant’s talent and skill on the court. Be it from wearing his jersey to shooting a paper ball into a trash can yelling out his name.
That continued long throughout his illustrious career that saw him achieve many significant milestones, from winning two more NBA championships to passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Throughout the difficult times on the court, Bryant was the lone mainstay. The lone constant through it all.
Many other professional athletes in Los Angeles made their mark on the city, but none were ever close to Bryant.
Kobe Bryant’s impact
Beyond his impact on the fans, Bryant had a tremendous amount of influence on the generation of players that followed him on the court. I can remember covering his final year in the league in the 2015-16 season for Sports Out West, the enormous amount of respect every player that played against him would show him.
Many of the game’s best players still playing at the time, such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul George, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Damian Lillard all voiced a great deal of admiration towards Bryant.
I got to see first hand the type of respect he earned from his peers who would visit him after the game outside the locker room that includes athletes from other sports such as Odell Beckham Jr., Thierry Henry to Novak Djokovic. He has had a great deal of impact in inspiring many of these players to push forward to pursue their respective careers even harder.
That was never more evident than in his last game, which I had the ultimate privilege of covering as a media member that saw notable figures from every walk of life show up to the game. To this day, it’s a performance that many of his colleagues and the next generation of NBA players have a great deal of admiration and respect for that outing.
Kobe Bryant’s Everlasting Legacy
There is so much that can be said about Bryant’s influence that goes far beyond his career with the next generation of star players such as Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has garnered a firm place in the hearts of many fans and his peers past and present.
He has created many memories of joy from fans who lived vicariously through his triumph and success on the court. These are timeless memories that are forever engrained in the minds of those who admired his work in any sort of capacity over the years. That will continue to be the case as his legacy only grows stronger through the stories that will be shared by those that were influenced in any way by him.
It’s a reality that is hard to come to terms with and may be something that can never truly get passed, but it’s time to remember the great times and the memories that he left us. It’s time to cherish his life and further embrace what he has meant to the game, NBA, and the world of sports.
Bryant’s has an everlasting impact on the world of sports that has inspired so many athletes to lock in and pursue their dreams. The Mamba Mentality is one that many have used as a source of motivation to push through any obstacle, and it will continue to have a greater impact beyond his legacy.