Kobe Bryant: The End of an Era

On Sunday morning, January 26, 2020, the sports world was rocked by the news of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California that killed all 9 people on board. Among those were 41 year old Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna Bryant. Also on board, John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, 46 and daughter, Alyssa, 13. John Altobelli was the longest running tenured coach at Orange Coast College where he mentored many players, some who made it to the Major Leagues. Also on board, Christina Mauser, 38, Ara Zobayan, 50, and Sarah Chester, 45 with her daughter 13 year old Peyton Chester. They were all apart of Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Academy which focused on woman and youth sports.

At the moment not just the city of LA who lost Nipsey Hussle a mere 10 months ago, but the sports world from LA to Beijing is feeling this loss. Kobe, while being born in Philadelphia spent a good chunk of his childhood in Italy and other European countries as his father, former NBA player Joe “JellyBean” Bryant relocated to continuing playing after retirement. It was due to this that led a young Kobe to learn multiple languages and maintain an ability to be fluent in them. This was shown during the 2 Olympic runs where team USA won the Gold in Basketball. Team USA coach, Mike Krzyzewski or coach K for short, mentioned that Kobe went to the other teams and spoke to the players in their native languages inexplicably bridging the gap in culture and becoming an unofficial ambassador for the game worldwide.

One of the few players that jumped to the league directly from high school, Kobe Bryant was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded that night to the Las Angelas Lakers for Center, Vlade Divac. Being the youngest player to sign at only 17 years old, Kobe spent his entire 20 year career in LA, becoming the face of the organization over that time. What made Kobe stand out was a combination of his Philly work ethic combined with his Hollywood swagger, he seemed destined to make a home for the re-emerging showtime Lakers. Over his illustrious career he took the Lakers to multiple championships winning 5 times. It wasn’t all smooth sailing however, in the early 2000s Kobe faced legal troubles in Colorado which ultimately got settled in a civil suit, now unlike most reports I don’t want to focus too much on this as I don’t know the intricate details but to omit it completely would be downright dishonest. It was from that incident that Kobe the player began to fully take responsibility in becoming Kobe Bryant the man. Around 2009 he changed out his jersey number 8 and becoming #24. In that move he was shedding his old persona and giving birth to the player known as the Black Mamba, named after a venomous snake who strikes accurately around 93% of the time. 

After his final curtain call in the NBA where he dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz, Kobe Bryant hung up his jersey and seemed to walk away from the game. He had told reporters that he never looked back and was looking to conquer the next mountain. It was through his daughter, Gianna that it was said he found his passion for ball again. Coaching her and using his wealth to create an academy that highlighted woman’s sports. Just putting his name in the mix helped elevate NCAA and WNBA ball as Kobe was quoted saying that young girls deserve to have athletic role models they can look up to as well. A consummate family man, Kobe had invested wisely in media companies where he won an Oscar, as well as sports companies becoming a 10% shareholder in Body Armor sports drinks. He looked to be securing generational wealth for his family.

Now, from a fans perspective, I was never a die hard Laker fan but I watched Kobe knowing that I was witnessing something special. Kobe Bryant seemed to branch the old school style of play while pushing it to another level and we saw brief examples of that in his showdowns with Michael Jordan and the reigning Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. In truth though every player who enters the league now can be modeled upon 2 players, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, both revolutionized the shooting guard position. To hear the news of Kobe’s passing to many of us feels like another piece of our childhood dying. Especially to those of us in our 30’s, we saw the rookie become the legend right before our very eyes, we saw the Black Mamba carry LA on his shoulders and almost reach mythical status in the process. To see a player and personality like his go so suddenly goes to remind us of our own mortality, to see the footage of the crash was to see the curtain close one last time on an era that will never be repeated.

Article by Jhantu Randall


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