GOOD SPORT: Legend transcends sport

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Today, Kobe Bryant was named a finalist to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

  You may be someone who knows little to nothing about basketball and the NBA, but I guarantee you’ve heard the name Kobe Bryant. On Jan. 26 Kobe died in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna Bryant or Gigi, shocking the world. They were on the way to one of her games when the helicopter crashed into a mountain in Calabasas, Calif. Millions of tweets were sent out from not only fans but players in shock saying, “This can’t be true,” or “Gone too soon,” leaving a permanent scar on us and the NBA. 

  Players and fans found it hard to watch and play games that day.  The players sat, not wanting to touch a basketball, with the heartbreak of losing a legend and a friend. The games played for the next few days began with a 24-second shot clock violations and eight-second backcourt violations to honor Kobe’s jersey numbers. The UConn Huskies left a jersey with flowers on the end of their bench honoring Gigi who wanted to be a Husky when she was older.

  The Laker’s game was rescheduled after Kobe’s death with a pregame tribute where Lebron James gave a speech. James, who had just passed Kobe for third on the all-time scoring list,  showed great emotion in his speech. Along with the speech was a tribute video narrated by Kobe himself taking everyone on his journey to becoming one of the greats. His impact on the game was so strong that the week after he died, I saw dozens of teen basketball players wearing his shoes as their personal tributes to him.

  Although Kobe Bryant was a part of the Los Angeles Lakers, a hated team in my household, Kobe was still a legacy to me and my family.  Kobe’s words about playing his role wherever he was needed are what made him such an influential player to me. He said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.”

  The saddest reality was his 13-year-old daughter’s death. After retiring from the NBA in 2016, he spent the last few years with his family, trying to be the father figure they never got to be around while he was in the league. He coached Gigi’s team, the Mambas, and began to improve Gigi as a basketball player. They were seen together at NBA games laughing while breaking down the games. 

  This father-daughter relationship was similar to my father-daughter relationship. Like Gigi, I was always in the gym with my dad at a young age, learning how to get better and most importantly having fun. It helped me to bond with my dad knowing that we both shared a passion for basketball. Knowing that Gigi died with her father is what gets to me the most. 

   Kobe was such a big influence that kids my age wad up a piece of paper and throw it at the wastebasket shouting, “Kobe!” to honor him. Kobe transcended the game. He played not only for his team and his family, but to continue a legacy saying, “I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant.”