I understand there’s no reason for me to be writing this on this website, but my mind has been racing since around 2 p.m. this afternoon and I’m still not sure I’ve fully processed my emotions. I wanted to put them on the page. I hope that’s okay.
Kobe Bryant was a complicated man. With a past that shouldn’t fade to the background, but an evolution that should be acknowledged. He made mistakes, but that’s what it means to be human.
The basketball side of Kobe Bryant’s legacy is something special. He was a transcendent player and an important icon to a sport and a league and a community that spanned the globe. The first jersey I ever purchased was a white Bryant No. 24 Laker jersey. It’s tucked away in a suitcase, earmarked for my first child.
I remember watching the 2009 NBA Finals with my dad, when Bryant took down Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
I remember watching the 2010 NBA Finals when Bryant slayed the Boston Celtics.
I remember when Bryant first tore his achilles, and the inspiration that came with watching him stay in to do his job.
I was there in Oklahoma City wearing that 24 jersey for his final road game in 2016.
I remember watching his last game in Staples Center on my couch with a roommate that couldn’t have cared less about basketball and yet sat next to me, eyes glued to the TV screen, cheering and jumping up and down and losing his mind right there alongside me as Bryant went out like the legend he was.
And I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when a text came through from my brother sharing that TMZ story.
I was one of those kids that went out on the driveway, counted down the clock before launching a jumpshot at the hoop, leg extended out the way Bryant always did, yelling “Kobe Bryant does it again” if the shot fell and resetting the whole scenario if it didn’t.
I didn’t play basketball at a stage that was ever relevant, but Bryant didn’t inspire me as a basketball player, he inspired millions as a competitor.
The human side of Bryant’s legacy is something more.
He has four children, one who was just born last year. When Gianna, 13, his middle daughter, started developing a love for basketball, Bryant started watching games with her every night. Bryant told a story recently on an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show: he would be stopped by fans and told to have a son, told he had no one to carry on his legacy into the NBA.
Gianna would say, “I got this.”
Kobe on Gianna: “The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she'll be standing next to me ..
They’ll be like “you gotta have a boy, have soembody carry on the legacy… she’s like, “oh, I got this!”pic.twitter.com/rsIgOXbNlI
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 26, 2020
Bryant was an ambassador for women’s sports just as much as he was for the NBA. He was an advocate for US women’s soccer and for the WNBA. He coached Gianna’s youth team. Reports suggest that’s where the two were headed when their helicopter crashed Sunday.
Bryant was a proud dad.
That’s the part that feels significant.
A parent lost a child.
A wife lost a husband.
A daughter lost a father.
A child lost a sister.
The lore of Kobe Bryant was always shrouded in this feeling of invincibility. Forty-one years young is too early, but life never discriminates.
Hug your loved ones.
Call your college roommate and make amends.
Tell your significant other you love them.
The thing you’re putting off until tomorrow, do tonight.
“Life is too short to get bogged down, or be discouraged,” Bryant said in a 2008 interview. “You have to keep moving, you have to keep going, put one foot in front of the other, smile, and just keep on rolling.”
Bryant will continue to inspire.
Rest in peace, 24.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.