Mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant


Benjamin Dettmer

On January 26, 2020, the entire world came to a screeching halt upon hearing the news of the loss of a Kobe Bryant, a truly legendary athlete and person, in a helicopter crash along with eight other victims, including his daughter, Gianna.

Kobe Bryant’s passing is the most tragic event in the history of sports and is without a doubt the most tragic death of an iconic figure that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. Kobe was taken far before his time at the age of 41 years old and leaves behind a legacy defined by greatness in all aspects of his life, both on and off the court. Kobe had a reputation as a devoted and loving family man to Vanessa, his wife of almost 20 years, and their four daughters.

Having retired three years prior after 20 incredible seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe would emphasize how much he was looking forward to spending more time with his family, and it was clear to the public how serious he took his role as a father; Kobe was the coach of Gianna’s basketball team and took great pride in talking about her passion for the game and her work ethic.

Kobe did not expect simply greatness from himself, he demanded it, and he demanded greatness from those around him as well. Kobe’s unrelenting will to win and unwavering focus on his work made his work ethic the stuff of legend; even in retirement, Kobe would settle for nothing short of excellence. Just two years after retiring, Kobe won the 2018 Oscar for an animated short firm called “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote and narrated and which was based on a letter Kobe wrote to the Players’ Tribune in 2015 that announced his retirement from basketball.

One of the most accomplished athletes, let alone people, of all time, Kobe was a testament to hard work and inspired millions of people around the world well beyond the game of basketball. His work ethic was unmatched, and there are countless stories from former players, coaches, and others from the basketball world that depict just how intense his drive to succeed really was.

He embodied the Mamba Mentality, which in own words is “the ultimate mantra for competitive spirit” and about “focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most.” Nobody worked harder than Kobe, and the assassin’s mentality that he played with every time he stepped on the court earned him the nickname Black Mamba.

It goes without saying that Kobe’s influence on the game of basketball will never be forgotten. Growing up an avid sports fan, I loved watching Lakers games with my father, and I have countless fond memories watching Kobe on Christmas Day, in the NBA Finals, in his legendary final game at Staples Center, and more. When the games would finish, I would go right outside to my driveway and try to emulate Kobe’s signature fade-away jumper for hours until my parents would finally call me inside.

I feel extremely grateful that I was fortunate enough to grow up during Kobe’s reign of dominance; hearing someone yell “Kobe!” as they try to shoot a rolled up piece of paper into the recycling bin simply will not be the same as it once was when I was growing up.

To fans, he was a real-life superhero, someone who was held in such high regard by everyone to the point that he was seemingly immortal. When the devastating news came out, it seemed impossible; even when his death was confirmed, I half expected him to emerge from the wreckage unharmed and slightly frustrated that he and Gianna were missing valuable practice reps. It still doesn’t seem real and likely won’t for some time.

In the days and weeks that have followed since, millions of people have taken to social media to express just how much the Mamba meant to them, and seemingly everyone who met him was impacted positively in some way, whether a basketball fan or not. Basically every player in today’s NBA grew up watching him play, and few players, if any, have every been idolized by their peers to the extent that Kobe was. He was a basketball deity, and even the brightest stars in today’s game held Kobe on a pedestal that was only matched by that of Michael Jordan.

Immediately after his passing, players across the league announced they would be changing their jersey number away from 8 or 24 in his honor. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban announced that no Mavericks’ player would ever wear 8 or 24 again.

In the Lakers’ first game back at the Staples Center, Kobe was honored by an emotional ceremony that culminated in a tear-jerking speech by Kobe’s longtime rival, friend, and Olympic teammate, Lebron James.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to put into words what Kobe meant to the game of basketball, and harder still to imagine the despair felt by his family and loved ones. While many will remember Kobe for the five titles that he won in Los Angeles, his legacy goes far beyond that.

In Kobe’s Oscar winning short film, “Dear Basketball,” Kobe writes to basketball, in a heart-felt goodbye, that “you asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart.” In everything that he did, Kobe gave his heart, and his undeniable passion for basketball and life will continue to live on forever in the memories of his friends, fans, and family.