Source: Nick Laham/Getty Images North America
It was one of the saddest days in sports history. The world was and is still grieving, reminiscing and paying tribute to one of the most beloved athletes in the history of sports. So beloved fans have even started a petition to have Kobe replace Jerry West as the NBA's logo (which you can sign here: https://www.change.org/p/nba-petition-to-make-kobe-bryant-the-new-nba-logo)
This past Sunday morning, a helicopter containing Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan (the pilot) crashed into a hillside of Calabasas, California. The loss of Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves throughout the world. Personally, I couldn't believe it myself, but sadly it was true. I’ve heard many say over the last few days, and to me it’s true, it really does feel like we've lost a family member. I mean we’ve literally watched him grow up in front of our eyes.
To be honest, I wasn't the biggest Kobe fan. Not when I was younger at least. I didn't respect and appreciate Kobe until I got older. When the Lakers had Shaq and Kobe, I leaned towards Shaq. I really only looked at Kobe as a sidekick, however a brilliant sidekick when called upon. Of course by the end of Shaq’s tenure with LA Kobe had emerged as one of the league’s brightest stars.
So here's the skinny, when Shaq was traded to Miami I shook my head thinking the Lakers made a HUGE mistake. Think about it; trading away one of the most dominant players in NBA history so Kobe could stay, honestly I think a lot of people thought the same way I did. However, 2 rings, 2 Finals MVPs, a league MVP, and countless All-Star appearances proved everyone wrong, except the Lakers.
One of my least favourite memories as a Raptor fan was Kobe's 81 point game. I was sick that day but I decided to stay awake in bed and listening anyway. The Raps led most of the game but I kept hearing Kobe's name every time the Lakers would score. Despite my discouraging chants against him, the Raptors couldn't stop Kobe. I don’t think anyone could that night. I was sick and upset in more ways than one, but seeing the highlights in the morning I was in awe, Kobe had me in awe.
That was the thing about Kobe. He would make the impossible possible. He had that mamba mentality. He'd score at any cost, push his opponents to the brink, and ultimately walk away with the W. He's one of the reasons why I fell back in love with the game.
I heard about the crazy stories of Kobe going to the gym at 3 am just to shoot free throws because he missed one or two the game before. Always being the first in the gym and the last to leave, leading by example, on and off the court. His hero was Michael Jordan and you saw a bit of MJ in Kobe. They both had that same cold blooded instinct, mixed with an unbridled passion for winning. His final game was a perfect example putting up 60 points in a way only Kobe could.
Kobe was always a private guy, when guys were jumping on the social media bandwagon Kobe didn't budge, not until his playing days were over. Retirement let us see Kobe in a different light. He was human just like all of us. He had a family like all of us. He'd talk about his kids, he would talk about coaching Gianna's basketball team and winning an Oscar for his short animated film called Dear Basketball. I recommend you watch the film. Those things made you appreciate Kobe for more than just basketball.
When you think of shooting a paper ball into a trash can you think of Kobe. When you’re tired but have to push yourself you think of Kobe. Kobe is the embodiment of hard work leading to success. There is no easy way out. That hard work and determination will get you where you want to go, that’s the way Kobe lived, and that’s why his death touch so many people, because he touched so many people.
The city of LA lost their hero, and so did the world. To Vanessa and her kids they lost a husband, a father, a daughter, and a sister. The basketball world lost one of its own. To the seven others, and to their families, I send my condolences. To Kobe Bryant I would say you’re an inspiration, a role model, and a go getter. To Kobe Bryant I say THANK YOU!