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Kobe Bryant’s legacy will live on

by Matthew Ohayon February 4, 2020
Kobe Bryant’s legacy will live on

On Jan. 26, the world lost a legend. Kobe Bryant was not just one of the best basketball players of all time. He was an icon, an Oscar winner, a mentor to many, but above all he was a husband and father.

I’ve never met Kobe, nor have I ever seen him play live. To be honest, I’m not much of a basketball guy. But growing up watching SportsCentre before school every morning, there was always something about Kobe Bryant. I, alongside countless others, grew up watching Kobe do his thing.

Kobe’s death shook the entire basketball community around the world. I asked some members of the Stingers basketball community what Kobe Bryant meant to them.

 

Tenicha Gittens: “Kobe Bryant to me is the definition of that competitive spirit, that intestinal fortitude that people say you’re supposed to have. He was borderline obsessed with the game of basketball and just wanted to be the best. He encompasses everything that it means to be a true athlete. And it wasn’t just about him. He wanted to make his teammates better and just be the ultimate fighter, competitor, warrior, whatever you wanna call it. Mamba mentality. It’s a real thing. Just saying it feels like it gives you power, like you can be Mamba. Basketball-wise—he was just the ultimate competitor. He made it okay to not care about what was said on the court. He would pull your heart out and be the first one to check up on you after. Off the court he was the ultimate advocate as well for women’s sports and basketball. You know, 41 years old—he didn’t have to coach his daughter and be an advocate but he wanted to continue to grow the game on all sides. His legacy is going to be his legacy on the court, but we got cut short of everything he was doing off the court. He was just scratching the surface. He was constantly watching women’s basketball—his daughter Gianna was the reason he started watching basketball again. It’s so easy for a male professional athlete to detach themselves from the women’s game for whatever reason, but it takes a vision to say ‘we need to be a part of this too. We need to be able to help support them and supply them with resources to grow their game.’ He means a whole lot. I have literally never cried like that for someone I have never met.”

Rastko Popovic: “I was on my couch in my living room resting Sunday morning when I found out about the helicopter crash, on Twitter and just saw the TMZ tweet. I had to look twice. My phone started buzzing so I get messages from people and it’s just, it’s unreal. And to be honest, you know, it’s not really if you’re a Kobe Bryant fan at this point. If you know basketball you understand how good he was and how much of a great competitor he was. You just appreciate what he did for the game of basketball and some guys obviously grew up idolizing him and for as long as you know basketball, you respect the champion, the competitive [player] that he was. It really puts things in perspective—I was involved in a big car accident two weeks ago. I missed the game against UQAM, and was pretty badly injured to start. You know, I just appreciated life to that sense where I was just saying I was just happy to be alive. I won’t lie to you, I kissed my two daughters at night and I had some tears. You never know what life’s gonna throw at you certain days and, you think some people are indestructible then something like this happens.”

Olivier Simon: “Mamba mentality—it’s a big thing. It defines Kobe—it’s work ethic in its purest form. And I think we play, we practice every day and it’s huge in our life, not just basketball. It’s the moment until you can put it to work, with your family, and basketball. It’s a way to live your everyday life. So I just try to have fun, and just do the best I can with whatever I’m doing. That’s what Mamba mentality is for me. I was talking to my coaches, like, everyone who knows when we heard about the story. Everyone is talking about his death as if we were personally affected, like as if we knew who he was. It was just hard because, you know, we’ve watched Kobe for a long time. The whole day was just really weird because I just imagined him, his family and his daughters. It was a hard day.”

Dwight Walton: “It’s not what he meant to me. It’s what he was about. His commitment to excellence, his commitment to skill development, his commitment to the process of what it took to win. And whether you were a fan of his or not, you respected that about him because, listen, he—throughout his career, you heard stuff. I won’t pretend to have been around the Lakers when he played. But you heard his teammates, he would alienate himself from his teammates a lot. But it’s because he wanted to win so, so badly, so whether you thought he was a selfish player, or whatever word you wanted to use for him; his commitment to wanting to win so much is what stands out for me. When you mimic, to who I consider the best player of all time, Michael Jordan, that’s the biggest compliment you could give to somebody; he wants to be what Michael Jordan was. The same traits, that commitment to excellence, that commitment to his body, his skill development, all of that stuff. That’s what resonated with me. I’m not gonna sit here and say that I was a huge Kobe Bryant fan, but I respected the process he went through to make sure that he was the best player that he could be. You see all the outpouring of love and affection that he’s been getting since the news broke on Sunday. Everybody knows the great basketball player he was but I think the reason why everybody is so emotional is because of the transition he made to being a great father, a great husband. And a great mentor to not only his kids but to the youth, especially the women, the little girls that wanted to play basketball. He was a major advocate for women’s basketball. His daughter Gianna, by all accounts was on her way to doing big, big and better things basketball-wise. And if you noticed, when Kobe Bryant first retired, he wasn’t a fixture at Laker games. He wasn’t going to a lot of games. But I think his daughter’s love for the game reinvigorated, reenergized him and his love for the game of basketball. He put the same relentless work ethic into becoming a great producer in the media world, a best-selling author, he won an Academy Award for his short film. Some people are saying that he lived a full life in his 41 years, but I think his life was just getting started.”

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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