It’s been a very sad 24 hours in the sports world, and beyond.
On Sunday, the shocking news of the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant sent all those who knew him, admired him, emulated him, and those who were simply captivated by his skill on the court, into a state of disbelief and sorrow.
Bryant, only forty-one years old, was among nine people who were killed when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed outside of Los Angeles.
Making the story even sadder, among the victims was Bryant’s thirteen year old daughter, Gianna.
They were on their way to a travel basketball tournament when the helicopter went down.
Bryant’s career and impact is nearly impossible to sum up in a matter of minutes, as he deserves so much more.
Kobe burst onto the scene in the NBA when he was drafted at just seventeen years of age.
Taken by the Charlotte Hornets, Bryant was later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would re-shape the franchise.
From 2000 to 2002, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal helped the Lakers win three-straight NBA Championships.
After O’Neal was traded to Miami, the Black Mamba got L.A. back to the top with two more championships in 2009 and 2010.
Bryant’s career accolades also included a league MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 18x All-Star, a 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, and has both his number 8 and number 24 jersey numbers retired inside the Staples Center.
After retiring in 2016, Bryant began to transition to life after basketball.
He won an Academy Award for a short film he wrote entitled ‘Dear Basketball.’
He began to spend more time with his family, helping Gianna elevate her own game.
He also made an impact on almost anyone he met.
Suzyn Waldman was in town Monday to speak at Binghamton University, and she told me about the first interaction she had with Bryant his rookie season while she was working with the New York Knicks.
“I was doing Knicks pre and postgame and halftime then. And I’m in there with my Marantz tape recorder, and there’s like a hundred cameras, they were the big ones back then. You couldn’t get near him, you just couldn’t get near him. All the columnists were there from everywhere. Every television station. One of the assistant coaches goes ‘ok guys we’ve got to go.’ He sees me standing there when everybody leaves and he says, he was seventeen, he said ‘um ma’am, do you need me for something?’ And I said, ‘two minutes for Knicks pregame?’ ‘Sure, they’ll wait for me…’ You have to love what Kobe did. I love the fact that his daughter had said that she was the one that was going to take over the legacy. And he was so proud of that. It’s a terrible loss. It was an awful loss because you’re not going to know what he could’ve done,” she says.
Waldman also mentioned her connection with another one of the victims, John Altobelli, who managed in the Cape Cod league and coached now MLBers Jeff McNeil and Aaron Judge.
Whether shagging baseballs after batting practice or tossing a piece of paper in the trash, you would always yell “Kobe” as you did it.
Bryant transcended the sport, and his death is a reminder that life is short.
It can be taken from us at any time so love your loved ones with all you have, and live your life with that Mamba Mentality.
My thoughts and prayers are with Bryant’s family and the families of all those lost in this tragedy.