By Max Lemmon
Heroes fall, but legends never die. Just last month, the world lost one of its heroes. On January 26, NBA star Kobe “Bean” Bryant was killed along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. The group was travelling in Bryant’s helicopter to a basketball practice, when the aircraft crashed in the Calabasas hills. Bryant was 41 at the time, and his daughter was 13.
Bryant’s long and decorated career began on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia where Bryant was born to former NBA player, Joe Bryant and his mother, Pam Bryant. He attended Lower Merion High school where he became known as the best player of his national class. He immediately declared for the draft after graduating, which made him one of the few to do so without attending at least a year of college. He was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 13th pick in the 1996 draft, but was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before he could suit up for the Bobcats. From then on, he would spend his entire 20-year career with them, earning them five championship banners. He was the 2008 Most Valuable Player (MVP), a two-time Finals MVP winner, an 18-time all-star, a two-time scoring champion, part of the All-NBA first team 11 times, part of the All-Defensive first team 9 times, and champion of the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.
With such an illustrious career, Bryant has always been a fan favorite player and is widely considered to be one of the greatest all-time. Averaging 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game, and being third all-time in total points scored, it is not hard to see why so many look up to him as a superstar.
The passion and diligence Bryant left behind that cements him as an all-time great. Bryant is, without a doubt, the hardest competitor in the league, and perhaps the world, has ever seen. There are countless stories about his work ethic, detailing how he would wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the gym until practice started to prepare for the Olympics, or how he would routinely play one-on-one games with his highschool teammates to 100 points, his worst performance being a 100-12 win. Bryant was known around the league as the hardest worker, the first in the gym, the most dedicated, and the most intense player.
“The work ethic that he put into the game; he had zero flaws offensively, zero,” Lebron James said in an interview. “You backed off of him, he could shoot the three. … You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot the
midrange, he could post, [and] he could make free throws…”
He even reportedly learned to speak French, just so he could talk trash to the French point guard Tony Parker.
“To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me,” Bryant once said in an interview. “That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”
Soon, Bryant’s work ethic took on a life of its own, coming to be known as the Mamba Mentality: a state of supreme focus on one’s goals, where nothing and no one can get in the way of the path to achieving them. Through constant struggles, criminal charges, injuries, and rough periods in the Laker organization, Bryant’s focus on his craft was unwavering and ever-present. The Mamba Mentality came to be regarded as a model for anyone trying to succeed in basketball, and in life in general.
After the last game of the 2016 season, where he dropped 60 points in a comeback win, Bryant retired from the NBA as one of the most legendary and loved athletes ever. The legacy he left behind was one of excellence and hard work, despite all odds. It is no coincidence that every time someone throws a ball of paper into a trash can, they yell “Kobe,” as if they were in his shoes, going up for a game winning shot. Bryant left us with a blueprint for what it takes to get the most possible out of life. He was a leader, a father, a director, an entrepreneur, and an inspiration to us all.
New details are still emering in the crash investigation. Recently, Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the company that employed the pilot involved in the crash, according to CNN.
Bryant has left behind an immortal legacy. Goodbye Kobe Bryant, may you rest in peace.