There’s no doubt that the year 2020 was one of the most universally challenging years in many of our lifetimes thus far. For most NBA fans, the first bolt to fall in a chain of tragedies was the tragic-death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s death happened way too soon, as he seemed to be at the beginning of a post-playing career that may have begun to rival his impact during his playing days. From his impact of inspiration to a generation of players that has yet to end to his devotion as a father, while looking to give back to the same communities that lifted him into legend status. The removal of that devastating helicopter crash on that fateful January 26th, 2020 would have not only saved Bryant, but would have also spared the lives of eight others.
The crash would come just a day removed from Los Angeles Lakers’ star LeBron James incredible accomplishment in which he passed Bryant as the third all-time leading scorer in NBA history. James would ultimately spend about fifteen minutes echoing the sentiments of many other Bryant inspired NBA players and Bryant responded with a message in which he echoed time and time again. “On to #2 @KingJames! Keep growing and charting the path for the next”, would be Kobe’s final social media post, but it was appropriate. Bryant’s desire to grow the game was beyond basketball. It would be impossible to list the number of current NBA players that have cited Bryant as their inspiration, but they are joined by athletes of other sports and soon-to-be athletes, along with a generation of regular individuals that have adopted the “Mamba Mentality.”
Bryant was about so much more than just basketball. For Bryant, it was all about his family first. You would be hard pressed to find a candid Bryant interview in which he didn’t mention his children in it. He was a father of four daughters, but perhaps the most tragic details of the matter, was the death of his daughter Gianna who also suffered her fate in the helicopter accident. Bryant loved all of his daughters, but his devotion to Giana was perhaps the most publicized. She was beginning to mirror her father on the basketball court as just thirteen-years-old and seemed to be the basketball prodigy of Bryant and could have been on her way to adding a boost to the overall popularity and growth of Women’s basketball. While two of his four daughters are still under thirteen, his oldest daughter is set to attend USC as she plans to further extend the legacy that Bryant left as a father.
Bryant’s basketball career may have ended in 2016, but his impact and legacy was at a never-ending peak. He didn’t travel too far away from his roots and never seemed to abandon those that blazed the trail that he would walk on. Bryant would be a part of plenty of philanthropic work. He would grant over two-hundred wishes for the Make-A-Wish program, in addition to his own organizations and programs that were funded by Bryant and his wife. One in particular was the foundation of the “Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.” The program helps young people that are in need by encouraging the development of physical and social skills through sports and assisting the homeless. The program works as a great summary for what Bryant and the rest of his work was all about. He wanted to help shape the future for the better and while his impact was made, it was clear he was set to do so much more.
All of this to echo the feelings in the hearts of fans all over the world, that Bryant was taken from us much too soon. The beautiful thing about what Bryant did, is that while he is no longer here, much of the world is still reaping the benefits and positivity from his actions. Bryant lived a truly richly impactful 41-years on the planet Earth and for that, he’d likely be grateful. Even with understanding all of this, fans will never forget what he’s done for them, but it’ll forever dwell on the minds of wondering what else he would have been able to accomplish. The void that is left in his family’s heart will never be filled and fans will truly never forget the Mamba.