By Dustin Fletcher
Yesterday, the sports world was shook by an unspeakable tragedy. Not only the sports world, but the world at large. Sunday, the world lost a legend to a random act of god. Not only this, but the world lost eight more lives alongside Kobe Bryant, including his 13 year old daughter, Gianna.
As Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76 changed the landscape of the hills in Calabasas, the entire landscape of Los Angeles’ culture was changed forever. Kobe was supposed to be invincible. Kobe wasn’t just part of LA. Kobe WAS LA. As of Monday afternoon, there were over 4 million tweets in memoriam of Kobe.
Bryant retired in 2016, capping off his storied career with a 60 point game in Los Angeles against the Utah Jazz. It was the highest scoring retirement game in the history of the NBA.
This year, he will be elected into the Hall of Fame, where his speech would have been one for the ages. Luckily, he gave us an Academy Award winning animated short, Dear Basketball.
Kobe’s cultural reach went far beyond just basketball. An entire generation of kids that grew up watching Bryant yell “Kobe!” every time they shoot a piece of paper into a trash can.
For kids like myself who grew up playing sports, it was his “Mamba Mentality” that drove us to work harder and perfect their craft. It was that mentality and work ethic that brought me here to Flagler College to run cross country, which unfortunately did not work out.
That mentality drives me to do this job as a writer, and write this story that is incredibly emotional for myself to write. I am a lifelong Lakers fan, and Bryant is my favorite athlete in the history of any sport.
As a child growing up, I knew I wanted to be a sports reporter. One of my goals was to one day meet Bryant. Growing up on the East Coast, some of my fondest memories were watching the clinic that Bryant put on every night.
There are so many young adults that idolized Kobe like myself. This will never be an easier pill to swallow. We lost a hero at the young age of 41. His daughter Gianna was supposed to be the biggest thing in women’s basketball. Both men’s and women’s basketball were robbed of a lifetime more of the Bryant family. Not only basketball fans, but Bryant’s family was robbed of a lifetime of memories with Kobe and Gianna.
His daughter Natalia is a senior in high school and will go off to college without her dad and little sister. His three year old Bianka will have very little memories of her father and older sister Gigi. His six month old Capri will never remember a single moment with her father or older sister Gigi. Capri will only know her father through pictures, videos and stories. His wife Vanessa, who he had been with for over two decades just lost her daughter and long time husband.
The family was finally going to have Bryant at home, bringing his Mamba Mentality to being a super dad. We saw that in his few short years of retirement while he coached the late Gigi’s team.
We all can take some lessons from Kobe, from the good and bad of his life. Love your family and spend as much quality time with the people you love. Be singularly focused on the task and goal you are currently focused on. Learn from your mistakes and apologize for your wrongs.
He taught us with his academy award for “Dear Basketball” to go outside our comfort zone and expand our horizons as people. Be fearless. Don’t listen to outside criticism. Be your own biggest fan. Be confident. Never waste a moment. Continue to learn more every day. Be better than you were yesterday. Live without fear. Live every moment and day such as it will be your last. This was his “Mamba Mentality.” It is the legacy that he will leave behind.
Kobe spent his last moments with his daughter, spreading love to what she loved. He was passing down his love of the game and knowledge to her and the other young girls on the team. The reason Kobe had a helicopter was to be able to avoid traffic and balance his maniacal work ethic and still be able to pick up his kids from school and get to their school plays and sporting events. He was a super dad.
While we will never see Kobe Bryant or his daughter pick up a basketball again, they are not gone forever. We will see him every day with the lessons he taught us. Whenever you throw something in the trash, he is remembered. Any time we see a fadeaway jump shot, we will see Kobe. Any time we see his girls and wife, he lives on. His parents Pam and Joe carry on his legacy.
We must not forget the things Bryant left behind. Mamba forever.
In Memoriam of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and Ara Zobayan.