With the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets selected an unproven 18 year old guard from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania. After a draft night trade, Kobe Bryant found his forever home as a dominant two-way guard in the form of the Los Angeles Lakers.
I speak for basketball fans everywhere when I say this is a black day. Especially since it comes only hours after LeBron James surpassed Kobe for third on the all time scoring list, a touching moment watched by fans everywhere between two long time friends. And only a few weeks since the passing of former groundbreaking commissioner David Stern.
Kobe truly represented the first superstar of my generation. I distinctly remember watching the 2010 Finals in awe at his nonstop motor and insatiable will to win. As a thirteen old kid I had heard the tales of Michael Jordan, but this was the first live example I had of an ice cold killer who would stop at nothing to overcome the challenges of his opponent.
Kobe Bryant’s legacy as a player cannot be understated. 20 years with one team is a feat to be proud of in its own right, but to fill Magic Johnson’s shoes and bring five championships back to Staples Center is the feat of a legend. Bryant averaged 25.0 PPG in his career for a total of 33,643 points. Stats seem so irrelevant right now but it’s important to understand the quality of his career.
Kobe’s most impressive accomplishment may come in the form of the example he set as a father. After his retirement, Kobe didn’t watch much NBA basketball. Until his daughter Gianna approached him and asked if they could begin watching together. Kobe responded by signing up for League Pass and the two would watch nightly.
Bryant also began coaching his daughter and gleamed at the very mention of the team of girls that had filled the new basketball void in his life. Gianna sadly also passed today along side her father in the tragic helicopter crash at the age of 13. Our last image of Gianna and Kobe is courtside at Staples Center breaking down the game and conversing with legends.
The game of basketball was badly hurt by his retiring in 2016, but it is absolutely devastated by his untimely death today at 41 years old. He leaves a legacy of hard work, dedication, and the constant reminder to have the mamba mentality.