Kobe Bean Bryant, forever.
It’s May 18th of 2012. I’m 14 years old, and I’m watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Playoffs. The Thunder are up 3-1 in the series, and the energy coursing through the arena was unlike anything this city had ever felt before. We were beating Kobe Bryant’s Lakers? Unbelievable. The man is a legend. A whole generation of kids grew up yelling “Kobe!” when they shot a basketball, and now our little NBA team is having their coming out party against him.
We all remember the shot Russell made, don’t we? The shot that made me fall in love with the game of basketball.
What made it so special, was the man in purple and gold. Kobe Bean Bryant. A superstar in every sense of the word. The face of Los Angeles. We all grew up watching him tear through the league with Shaq, and then later with Pau Gasol. An 18 time All-Star, and one of the greatest players of all time. Culturally impactful unlike anything we’ve seen before. You don’t find determination like that in people. You don’t see that level of work ethic.
Kobe played his last playoff game in Oklahoma City on May 21st of 2012, and the last road game of his career in OKC in April of 2016. We always showed up to see Kobe.
That man lost his life today in a helicopter crash. His daughter, Gianna Maria, also died in the crash. Kobe was on his way to his daughter’s basketball game. He leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and three other children.
We always talk about “legends”. Someone who will be remembered forever. Someone who changed the lives of a generation. Someone who effected culture at large. Kobe Bryant is all of those things and more. Kobe is a father, a leader, an innovator.
There are NBA games being played today, but the players aren’t focused on playing right now. We’re all still processing what happened today, but there is one thing we can all say: Thank you, Kobe.