David Pastor, Sports Reporter
The world and the basketball community were traumatized by the Jan. 26 death of Kobe Bean Bryant along with his daughter Gianna and the seven other victims of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.
Bryant had a huge impact on society, of course, there are the accolades from the two decades he spent with the Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016). A five-time champion, two-time finals M.V.P, league M.V.P. in 2008, an 18-time All-Star, and retired third all-time in points with 33,643, highlighted by the second-highest individual scoring performance in NBA history when he scored 81 points on our beloved Toronto Raptors.
He was one of the greatest scorers to ever touch the hardwood, he had a stone-cold killer mentality on the court and was one of the most influential athletes to every play any professional sport. But what got people’s attention came off the court.
Bryant was a family man, beloved by his wife Vanessa and his four daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. He along with his wife made sure they raised their kids the right way and taught them to be good individuals and make the most of the opportunities they were given.
He was a leader, someone that made the right decisions and had the people around him follow in his footsteps. Six years ago, a New York police officer on Staten Island put Eric Garner in a chokehold as police attempted to arrest the individual for selling cigarettes.
Garner, gasping for air, had told the officer, “I can’t breathe.” He would later succumb to his injuries. This death started a nation-wide protest centred around police brutality that saw many citizens and celebrities voicing their concerns.
Bryant, being the mentor that he was to all his teammates, had them all wear t-shirts that said “I can’t breathe” to stand up for the rights of others.
He wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought he was. In 2003, he was involved in a life-changing experience when he was charged with sexual assault after he raped a woman at a spa. The charges were eventually dropped but that incident changed his life forever.
It opened his eyes to reality and he realized that just because he was a famous athlete, he was still a human who has to face consequences.
It was at that moment that Bryant began to support females athletes across the world, sharing his wisdom and Mamba mentality — the building of a mentality that focuses on competitive spirit — especially with his late daughter Gianna and her teammates, who he coached. The man shared his knowledge and knew that his legacy was safe because of the same skill set that Gianna portrayed.
He wanted nothing but the best for those who weren’t as fortunate as he was, especially when it came to the youth, our future. The Bryant family started a charitable organization in 2011 that would help homeless youth in Los Angeles turn their lives around and help direct them down the right path to success.
“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do,” Bryants once said.
And that is exactly what he did. Through all the injuries over the past 20 years, his body grew weaker, but his voice remained strong.
Growing up we created a cheer announcing a basketball swishing into the net or some a balled-up piece of paper tossed into a garbage can. KOBE! We would shout. It’s almost become a force of habit, maybe even a tradition, but as we mourn the loss of one of the greatest basketball players to ever live, we can’t let the tradition fade.
When he entered the league in 1996 at only age 17, Bryant changed our lives forever. The least we can do is scream his name to the skies as we do, what he dedicated his entire life to, playing basketball and help those around us.