Greetings, beautiful people! This piece will honor the career, and life of Kobe Bean Bryant. He passed away Sunday, at the age of 41, in a helicopter crash. Bryant’s presence and personality, left a resounding mark on basketball fans across the world. His impact went beyond the hardwood. His untimely death left a scar in the sports community.
However, rather than mourning his loss, we must celebrate! Bryant is now in a better place! Although he is gone, he won’t be forgotten. Sleep in peace Kobe!
(To properly honor the departed Bryant, the length of this piece will be 8 minutes. Bryant wore the No. 8 jersey from 1996–2006.)
Despite playing soccer as a child, basketball proved to be Bryant’s passion.
Attending Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Bryant had one of the most decorated high school careers, in basketball history. He scored 2,883 points, the most of any player in the Southeastern Pennsylvania area. He won the National player of the year award, as a senior. Lastly, he led his school to a state championship in 1996, the first in it’s history.
Deciding to forego college, Bryant declared for the 1996 NBA draft. Selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, he was quickly dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers, for veteran big Vlade Divac. Worst trade in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant carries an extensive list of accomplishments during his NBA tenure. Therefore, I’ll select five moments from his illustrious career, that describes his legacy as an NBA player, and a global icon in the 21st century.
THE 81 POINT GAME
Known during his career as a prolific scorer, this game was arguably Bryant’s finest performance.
On January 22, 2006, Bryant notched a career-high 81 POINTS, against the Toronto Raptors. It’s the second highest scoring performance in NBA history, after Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game. His Lakers finished victorious, defeating Toronto, 122–104.
Bryant torched the Raptors with a bevy of slashes to the rim, contested mid-range jumpers, and three-point baskets. He scored 55 of his 81 points in the second half, outscoring the ENTIRE RAPTORS team 55–41, in the final two quarters.
His 2005–06 season was memorable. He averaged 35.4 points per game, the highest single-season scoring average, in the last 25 years. That season, he lost the MVP race, to Suns point guard Steve Nash. Speaking about MVPs…
After years of disappointment & playoff failures, Bryant and the Lakers were on a mission during the 2007–08 NBA season. They began the year at 28–16, contending in a tough Western conference. In February, L.A. would acquired All-Star forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. This move gave Bryant the help necessary, to finally compete for a championship. He took full advantage.
That season, he averaged 28 points, 6 boards, 5 dimes, & 2 steals. He captured his only MVP award. Surprisingly he only has one, given his lengthy run as a top player in the league.
Nonetheless, he led the Lake Show to 57 wins, the top record in the West, and an NBA finals berth. They would lose that final series to the Boston Celtics. Despite his personal accolades, Bryant sought team success: another championship. It would be his first ring, since his divorce with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. Speaking about rings…
RING NO. 5
Bryant would win his fourth championship in 2009. But he was hungry for more. The following season, he averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 dimes, and led Los Angeles to 57 wins. His squad’s championship experience, and chemistry, earned them their third straight title berth.
In the finals, they faced their rivals, the Boston Celtics, led by Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, & Kevin Garnett.
Battling in a thrilling seven-game series, this was one of the all-time great playoff matchups. Torching Boston for most of the series, Bryant struggled in game 7. He recorded 23 points and 15 boards, with a broken finger. The Lakers came out victorious, winning their 16th championship as a franchise, and Kobe’s fifth overall.
Ranking all of his title victories, Bryant stated that, the 5th was his most rewarding, since it was at the expense of a Boston group that defeated him in the Finals, two years prior.
On December 14, 2014, Kobe Bryant sunk two free-throws to surpass Michael Jordan, for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. His childhood idol growing up, Bryant strived to be as talented, or better than Jordan. Mirroring several of his moves, Bryant wanted as many rings & accolades as Mike. Therefore, passing Jordan, was one of Bryant’s finest achievements.
Jordan acknowledging the feat, and congratulating Bryant after the game, made it that much special. Kobe made sure to do the same, after LeBron passed him, on the NBA all-time scoring list recently.
Last, but not least, Kobe’s final game. Bryant announced his retirement at the beginning of the 2015–16 season. Following the announcement, in each opposing team’s city, opponents and fans showered Bryant with standing ovations & tributes. Bryant showed his appreciation, by thanking each opposing city, and gifting a player from the opposing team, a pair of his signature sneakers.
He did this in each city, until the final game of the season.
It was April 13, 2016. Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe’s final NBA game. And boy, did everyone show out. The Lakers honored Kobe, by featuring both his No. 8 & No. 24 on the hardwood. Every celebrity imaginable was in attendance. Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, Shaquille O’Neal, & Kanye West, amongst several others. And most of all, the Mamba put on a show.
Everyone can remember their location when Kobe scored 60. I know I remember.
I was sleeping.
However, once I woke up, I quickly ran to my phone, to see how Kobe performed. My phone was blowing up. It was flooding with notifications reading: “Bryant scores 60 in final NBA game.” I was amazed. I couldn’t believe it. I had to watch the highlight twice.
Many forget, statistically, Kobe Bryant’s final season was mediocre. He averaged 17 points, on below average efficiency. That made his final performance that more impressive. During a season where he couldn’t make any shots, he went out missing none.
60. Fucking. Points. 60 points! Bryant was unstoppable. At age 37, he became the oldest player ever, to score 60 in a game. That performance was vintage Kobe, running up and down the Staples Center floor, wreaking havoc, one last time.
To cap off a wonderful night, he ended with a speech. He thanked everyone in attendance, and appeared grateful for the tremendous love and support, throughout his entire journey. He concluded the speech, with the now iconic “Mamba Out” & mic drop.
Kobe’s farewell was the perfect ending, to a storybook career.
As mentioned before, Kobe Bryant’s carries an extensive list of accomplishments, too many to count.
I’m well aware, that I’m missing several important moments from his remarkable career: four straight airballs in the playoffs vs. the Jazz, playing in the 1998 All-Star game, the alley-oop, his performance in the 2000 NBA finals, his first championship, the three-peat, his performance in the 2004 NBA finals, scoring 62 points in three quarters, switching from #8 to #24, scoring 50 points in four consecutive games, his clutch plays in the 2006 NBA playoffs, his trade request from the Lakers, his gold medals at 2008/2012 Olympics, his 61 points at the Garden, his entire 2009 NBA playoff run, championship No. 4, dragging the 2013 Lakers to the playoffs, shooting free-throws after his Achilles tear, & winning a freaking Oscar.
Despite the long list of achievements, what is Kobe’s legacy?
There’s no concise answer for this question. So here’s my opinion. His drive, discipline, and work ethic molded him into one of the greatest basketball players to ever live.
His determination and persistence to be nothing but his best, resinated with millions of fans across the world. Bryant inspired an entire generation of athletes, to want to play basketball. Why do you think boys yell “Kobe!” when they throw something into the trash?
He inspired a generation of women hoopers as well. Whenever given the chance, Bryant taught his daughters about the game. He also gave recognition to the deep pool of talented women, in the WNBA.
He even inspired others off the court. Wherever he went, he shared knowledge. Not only was he an exceptional athlete, he was an intellectual. Bryant influenced many, like myself, to realize, there’s more to life than just shooting hoops. How do you think he won that Oscar award?
There’s much more that Bryant did for our world. But for now, let’s restate the question: what is Kobe’s legacy? Well frankly, he’ll go down as the greatest of all time (da GOAT!).
To conclude, Kobe’s untimely death sent shockwaves across the globe. It’s unfortunate, that we live in a world, where something drastic must occur, for us to come together.
Let this be a lesson. Remember, live every day like it’s your last because tomorrow is NEVER promised. Cherish your loved ones, your friends, and the people most important to you. And most of all, be grateful that you woke up today, because many others won’t get the chance to wake up again.
My prayers & condolences go out to the people that lives were lost during that helicopter crash: Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, & Ara Zobayan.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you liked, or disliked this piece. And please, share this with your friends. With that being said, again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And much success in 2020. We LOVE YOU KOBE!
(Originally posted January 27, 2020 on Medium. Edited May 22, 2020 WordPress.)