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


Notes from a fan: coping with Kobe’s death

When news broke about the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others aboard the helicopter, I was in disbelief.

I’d always thought incredulity at the revelation of tragedy was a hyperbole, I thought people were just emphasizing the significance of the event/loss. On Jan. 26, my ignorance was destroyed as I experienced the phenomenon first-hand.

I spent the weekend in New York City, gladly welcoming the opportunity to wind down before mayhem between school and work would undoubtedly ensue. The itinerary was picturesque and arranged; Broadway show on Saturday, Knicks on Sunday––feasting and shopping along the way.

Saturday came and NYC was as mesmerizing as ever, with billboards simulating 24-hour daylight and shopping centres bustling through the p.m. and early a.m.. The Sunday morning weather was beautiful and the clusters of people lining the streets reflected it.

By nighttime, the billboards once meant to display ads that cost companies more monthly than what I’ll earn in my life were replaced instantly, diehard New York sports fans littered the streets wearing Laker apparel and mimicked the message the billboards held in cold-hard truth.

The advertisements pictured the Los Angeles legend over a bleak background that read: “Kobe Bryant 1978-2020”

I wandered the American streets without phone service when my girlfriend got the news from our friend who replied to a social media post. My friend (someone I would not consider an avid basketball fan) wrote: “We heard Kobe passed, how’s Liam taking it?”

I instinctively gravitated towards the fact that Lebron James had passed Kobe up in all-time points the night prior, but why would my friend care enough to bring that up? I quickly tossed that notion aside.

We momentarily got excited because it meant Kobe Bryant must be in town. My head started to spin, and the itinerary previously set in stone was about to cave in on itself.

It did, but for all the wrong reasons.

When articles were presented, I slated the gaps in knowledge and wanted more evidence. How could Kobe of all people be killed in such a way? I will always mentally scuffle at the thought.

Madison Square Garden, the historic arena garnering the brightest lights was overshadowed by the news that night. The home of the New York Knicks became the home of Kobe’s first NBA points (Nov. 3, 1996), the host of that evening’s game became the host of Kobe’s first All-Star game (Feb. 7, 1998). Spike Lee’s usual courtside antics were unusually minimal, as even the fan-favourite celebrity-cams failed to cheer up the Garden crowd.

And if not for my friend’s unassuming message hours before the game, I might have found out in the arena during the moment of silence. I am forever grateful that notion will remain fiction; she softened the blow for me.

It’ll take weeks before hoop fans can continue talking basketball, and that’s okay. We can never forget such a tragedy, but we must do our best to endure together. On Jan. 30, Vanessa Bryant released her first public statement, in which she perfectly sums up everyone’s sentiments this week.

“I wish they were here with us forever,” she wrote. “They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”


Feature photo by Liam Sharp


A throwback to jazz’s golden-age

What do Ain’t Misbehavin, Othello, The Seagull, Glengarry Glen Ross, Top Girls and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz have in common? Aside from being the 2013-14 theatre line-up for the Segal Centre, they all revolve around the deadly themes of power and passion.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs at the Segal Centre from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20. Press photo.

The broadway production, Ain’t Misbehavin’, was conceived in 1988 by the veteran radio broadcaster Murray Horwitz, as a musical revue paying tribute to black musicians of the 1920s and ‘30s Harlem Renaissance, especially the zing and swing of Fats Waller’s musical genius.

The Harlem Renaissance was an era of burgeoning creativity and cultural awareness, where hundreds of years of oppression and persecution were expressed through the new sassy and sizzling beats of swing at infamous nightclubs such as The Cotton Club and The Savoy Ballroom. Waller was one of the pioneers of influential jazz music at that time and composed Ain’t Misbehavin in 1929, a song that would not only etch the beginnings of his fame but also the framework for an era long gone.

Now the Segal Centre, in conjunction with Copa de Oro Productions, is bringing Montrealers back to a more bumpin’ time with Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical Show, directed by the award-winning Roger Peace. Although this play marks Peace’s 107th production as a writer, director and choreographer, what continues to stick out for him is that there is no plot-driven story.

“It’s a musical review, so we look at each song as its own little story and we build around that,” said Peace. “He [Waller] was a big star in those days in Harlem…where Harlem was Harlem for its speakeasies and the drugs in the dark nightclub corners.” Peace hinted that this aspect will be reflected in the musical as well.

“This joint is jumpin’/It’s really jumpin’/Come in cats an’ check your hats/I mean this joint is jumpin’,” sings the five-cast ensemble dressed to the nines in zoot suits and shimmering dresses. In particular, cast member Aiza Ntibarikure really is jumpin’ high. A 2011 graduate from Dawson College’s professional theatre program, Ntibarikure hasn’t had a moment to settle down yet.

“I never thought I’d be working so hard so early upon graduating! But I consider myself lucky because I’m putting myself out there and following my bliss,” she said.

“Check your weapons at the door/be sure to pay your quarter/Burn your leather on the floor/grab anybody’s daughter,” solos the up-and-coming Jonathan Emile, wearing an impeccable fedora and matching white suit. For Emile, a local hip-hop artist who has collaborated with hip-hop superstars such as KRS1 and Kendrick Lamar, this will be his first professional performance.

“It’s just amazing to push the limits of my creativity and musical ability. Stepping into the theatre world just opens up the dimensions of what I can do,” says Emile, who’s proud to give back to his jazz roots by paying tribute to Waller. “Part of why I’m stepping into this is for my own personal growth…and plus this joint really is jumpin’.”

“I know for certain/The one I love/I through with flirtin’/It’s just you I’m thinking of/Ain’t misbehaving/ I’m saving my love for you.”

This song always invokes a strong feeling of nostalgia in Peace, who advocates that anyone interested in jazz will share in this feeling as well.

“I hope the audience will get into it because Montreal has always been big on jazz, and unfortunately you can’t hear these songs on the radio anymore. The history is in the music, and the music is right here at the Segal Centre.”

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs at the Segal Centre from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20.



Let’s give back to a man who has given us so much

Graphic by Katie Brioux

In Stan Fischler’s book Who’s Who in Hockey, he mentions an important goal scored by Jean Béliveau in 1967 with the help of his linemates, Claude Provost and John Ferguson. When the goal was announced and Ferguson was not given an assist on the play, Béliveau immediately complained to the referees and official scorer, asking them to make a correction.

This example of putting his teammates first is one of many which helped solidify Béliveau’s status as one of the best and most admired captains in the history of the game.

During Béliveau’s playing career, which spanned 20 seasons, he won an astonishing 10 Stanley Cups and remains tied with Saku Koivu for longest serving captain in the organization’s history, at 10 years.

Unfortunately, Béliveau’s health is ailing and he suffered a stroke on Feb. 27. He had heart problems in 1996 and was even diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000. Despite his numerous health problems, he has always made himself available to the media, fans and various charitable causes.

Red Fisher of The Gazette, who has been covering the Canadiens since the ‘50s, wrote a heartwarming tribute to Béliveau on Feb. 29. He said Béliveau’s impact off the ice was just as important as on the ice: “[He] was more than a captain: he was a father figure in many ways,” he said. “If there were personal problems that needed attention, he was available.”

Béliveau is most likely the city’s most important ambassador. Although he’s received a fair share of awards and honours, the Tremblay administration needs to make a significant gesture that will guarantee Béliveau’s name will be remembered a very long time beyond his death.

Retiring a player’s number and putting a statue of him in front of the Bell Centre simply isn’t enough. The outpouring of support and admiration for Béliveau, following his stroke, has been phenomenal. Dozens of sports journalists from The Gazette and other outlets have been sharing their personal stories of Béliveau, and they all share a common thread: class.

“He is the single classiest person I have ever known,” said Jack Todd, sports columnist for The Gazette since 1986. “He would never pass by without stopping to shake hands and ask how I was doing. He would always give you a thoughtful and articulate answer to any question.”

Todd even goes as far as saying that Béliveau is the greatest living Quebecer, and perhaps the greatest living Canadian, too. A case can easily be made for both statements, and that’s why the city needs to recognize that now, instead of waiting for Béliveau’s death. Re-naming a street, a building, a day: whatever it takes to let him know that the 60 years he has spent as ambassador to the team and city were truly appreciated.

The trend has been to carry these changes out following a person’s death, but that has to change. Why not show our appreciation now, while he’s still alive? The man who has brought so much joy to so many people, on and off the ice, needs to witness just how meaningful his contributions were.

When Gary Carter died last month, it prompted officials to create a section on the city’s website to take suggestions as to how he should be honoured. The president of the Olympic Park, David Heurtel, told The Gazette that Carter’s memory would be honoured somewhere within the Olympic Stadium complex. The same procedures need to take place now, so that the city and the Canadiens can find a suitable way to preserve Béliveau’s legacy.

Todd van der Heyden, news anchor for CTV News Channel and long-time journalist in Montreal, speaks very highly of his interactions with Béliveau. “He represents a rare and probably dying breed — one part aristocrat, one part athlete ― and together it made him a class act who used his position in Quebec society for a greater good, as opposed to his own personal gain,” he said.

For more than half a century, Béliveau has served as the face of the Montreal Canadiens organization, which, despite its awful season, remains the team with the most tradition in success in professional sports, along with the New York Yankees.

“You know, when people are good, it makes me feel good to give back,” Béliveau would tell people, according to Fisher. “People have always been good to me.”

Now, it’s our time to be good to him.

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