RICHMOND- Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash on January 26,2020 left the entire world in a state of shock and grief.
The former Lakers All-Star and future Hall of Famer was traveling with his daughter and several others in a helicopter on their way to a basketball game when tragedy struck.
Multiple NFL Players during the Pro-Bowl paid tribute to the star as well as all NBA Teams around the league who bore 24 at some point. The Raptors, Spurs, Celtics, and Pelicans each took intentional 24-second shot clock violations as a tribute.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even came out and announced that no player in the history of the Mavericks will ever wear 24 again as a tribute to Bryant.
Kobe’s legacy goes far beyond wearing the only colors he ever wore in the National Basketball Association. After starring at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, Kobe entered the draft at 18 years old and was expected to contribute right away. But Kobe was not drafted by the Lakers.
In fact, Bryant was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft and was traded to the Lakers in an attempt by Los Angeles to clear cap space by trading Vlade Divac and ultimately signing Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant debuted in the Summer League that year dropping 25 and receiving mass approval from the crowd in hand. From 1996-1999, Bryant developed into a player known for his killer instinct that at the time, was not seen by anybody except the great Michael Jordan himself.
In 1999, after falling to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, Bryant would embark on a run of excellence that was mixed with tension and success.
The hiring of Phil Jackson in 2000 allowed the Lakers to blossom and behind both Shaq and Kobe, the rise of the Lakers in the early 2000’s took shape when the won 3 straight NBA Championships. In 2000, they took down Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in 6, 2001 against Allen Iverson and Philadelphia took 5, and 2002 against Jason Kidd and the Nets took a 4 game sweep.
Following O’Neal’s departure, and despite the excellent play by Bryant, the Lakers struggled. On top of that, Bryant was accused of sexual assault which caused him to miss multiple games in 2003. The Lakers would return to the finals in 2004 after acquiring Karl Malone and Gary Payton where they faced a heavy underdog in the Pistons.
Sadly, the Lakers were thrown aside 4-1 as the Pistons claimed one of the biggest upsets in NBA History. However, Bryant still had many great accomplishments left in his career.
Following the loss in 04, many wondered whether Bryant could win following the departure of Shaq. Kobe’s view? All he did was drop 81 in a game in 2006 and still made the Lakers relevant.
In 2007, the Lakers had a chance to go far in the playoffs but fell 4-1 to the Phoenix Suns. 2008 had a better result, but the Lakers fell to the Celtics in the NBA Finals after 6 games.
2009 brought forth the rise of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and the Lakers found their championship pedigree as they defeated the Dwight Howard led Orlando Magic in 5 games to win the NBA Title. In 2010, the exacted revenge on Boston by winning the title in 7.
2011 was the year to bring another three-peat, but the Lakers were swept by Dirk Nowitzki and the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the conference semi-finals. That would end up being Kobe’s last chance to ever win a title.
The last three years saw Bryant deal with injuries and eventually he retired in 2016 after dropping 60 in his final game against the Utah Jazz. When he retired, he was third on the all-time scoring list (Now 4th behind Lebron) and had multiple accolades to go along on his resume including 5X NBA Champ, 2X NBA Finals MVP, 18X NBA All Star etc.
Bryant also won two gold medals in the Olympics before retiring in 2012 after winning over Spain. Bryant even received an Oscar award for “Dear Basketball”.
Kobe’s life and legacy will always be intact and can never be ignored as many kids to this day shout “Kobe” when shooting paper in to a trash can or tossing a ball around, or even just playing basketball in general.
Bryant was also known for his warm, welcoming smile that made you feel like you knew him for more than 30 years which was a strong contrast to the basketball assassin that he was known to be on the court.
Bryant and his daughter Gigi were among many others killed in that crash and that only adds to the pain but it reminds us to be grateful for those who are in our lives as what lies tomorrow is not fully known.
Our hearts lie with Kobe’s family and all the victims’ families who lost loved ones in this tragic helicopter crash. #8 and #24 will always have meaning in both life and the NBA. #MambaMentality #RIP.