By Alexander Yuncker
For the Collegiate Review
Sunday, Jan. 26, may have been one of the toughest days for the many athletes, personalities, and fans of the sports world. Kobe Byrant, 41, unexpectedly passed away in a helicopter crash while traveling to coach his daughter Gianna’s basketball game. Gianna was also aboard the helicopter and passed as well.
In a world infiltrated by social media, it seems we glaze over the deaths of celebrities without thought regularly. But this one was different. I’ve never seen so many of my peers affected by such an event. People who had not been interested in basketball respected Kobe and admired him. His passing set off a digital bomb as millions came together to pay their respects to the legendary athlete.
Personally, Bryant’s passing was an emotional event for me. As a kid, before I was the sports junkie I am now, Kobe was the one basketball player I knew. I remember having a Lakers-themed bedroom solely because of him. At that time I couldn’t tell you the roster of the Lakers other than Bryant. And I can assure you, my story is only one of the millions to have been affected by the career of Bryant.
On the court, Bryant was a generational talent, the kind that demanded attention. In the city of Los Angeles, a melting pot for the biggest stars on our earth, everyone came to watch him play. He was the brightest star in a city full of them.
His accolades, though they do not define him, are remarkable. Kobe Bryant was an 18-time all-star, 15-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Defense, twice a Finals MVP, League MVP, and a world champion five times. That’s a list that resides with only a true legend of the game.
Bryant also won an Academy Award for his short film, Dear Basketball. He also worked with ESPN on its series Detail. His life post-retirement, while short, was poised to be as successful as his career in the NBA.
Most of us did not know Kobe, but we all knew Kobe. His impact on our lives will be felt forever as he inspired an entire generation to shout “Kobe!” as we shot our rolled-up paper ball into the trash can. His work ethic, the ever-so-coveted “Mamba Mentality” has motivated so many to push toward their goals without resentment and has affected more than just athletes.
I would be remiss not to mention Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant. The pain she must be enduring after the loss of her husband and one of her daughters must be immeasurable. I hope she is being comforted by close friends and family and eventually can rise above this tragedy.
Rest in peace, Mamba.