Nile McNair, Contributing Writer
The world was shocked on Sunday as former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California.
The five-time NBA champion, 2008 MVP and 18-time all star was one of nine people who tragically died in the crash.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, was also among the nine people who fell victim to this crash.
Bryant spent two decades in the NBA, all with one team, the Los Angeles Lakers. As fans of the game of basketball, we saw his complete evolution.
From a 17-year-old student at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, he became one of the best and most influential athletes of all time.
One thing that made Kobe Bryant so unique was that he was the first guard straight out of high school was so successful. Previously, there were big men who came out of high school and were great — see the likes of Moses Malone and Kevin Garnett.
But Kobe Bryant’s success in the NBA after coming from high school set the stage for those who came after him, like Tracy McGrady and Lebron James.
It wasn’t until his fourth year in the league that Bryant became a household name. The tandem of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal would take over the league and lead the Lakers to three straight NBA titles.
However, when the pair split, the greatness of Kobe Bryant was put on full display, where his “Mamba Mentality” began.
The “Mamba Mentality” is a term Kobe Bryant created in order to describe his level of focus and relentlessness toward preparation and competition.
“The thing I respect the most about him, was how he honed his craft every year. … He worked more than everybody,” VCU men’s basketball head coach Mike Rhoades said. “He was so efficient and that’s why he was so good for so long, and lots of people respected that.”
Once Bryant won two championships without O’Neal, it solidified his legacy and moved him into the realm of the greatest basketball players ever.
Even after winning that fifth title, Bryant said at the postgame press conference, “I’m just happy I got one more than Shaq.”
But what makes the sudden death of Bryant that much sadder is at only the age of 41, he seemed poised to have a post-career parallel to his playing career.
In only three years of retirement, Bryant had already won an Oscar for the animated short he wrote entitled “Dear Basketball,” a letter he wrote to the game of basketball when he retired.
He started the Mamba Academy, a placed where he coached girls, including his daughter Gianna. Through the academy, Bryant became a major advocate for women’s basketball.
When we had to finally come to grips with the fact that Bryant had passed away, it became evident how many people he touched in his 41 years of life.
In the Pro Bowl, NFL players did Bryant’s signature fadeaway as a sack celebration. Both the day of and the day after his death, NBA players were seen on the court in tears over the tragedy.
There are petitions all across social media trying to change the NBA logo to a silhouette of Bryant.
The NBA even postponed a Lakers and Clippers matchup scheduled for Tuesday.
Bryant will forever be immortalized as a global icon. We’ve all yelled “Kobe” while shooting a paper ball into a trash can for a reason.
We thank Bryant for all the great memories he bought us as fans, and pray for his family, along with all the other families involved in this tragedy.
But the one thing we should grasp from this tragedy is to cherish life and our loved ones, and to live life to the fullest. This is just a reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised.