The world remains in shock from the unexpected death of Kobe Bryant.
The basketball legend — who won five NBA championships and was an 18-time All-star during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers — was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Jan. 26. Other victims included Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant.
The emotions of an anguished public and fan base remain right on the surface, needing only a pinprick of a memory or the latest scrap of “updated information” trying to explain what happened to cause friends and strangers, the famous and non-famous, to unleash into a new volley of tears in private settings or erupt into spontaneous chants of “Kobe, Kobe,” at public gatherings.
Bryant, who was 41 when he died, went from a precocious teenage talent drafted out of high school in Philadelphia to an aloof and occasionally contentious young adult pro more respected than admired for his relentlessness on the court and fanatical work ethic off of it — and whose career was almost derailed by an early inappropriate incident in Colorado — to a most certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. He wore two uniform numbers with the Lakers — 8 and 24 — and is the only Lakers player to have two numbers retired by the team.
He also evolved into a noted loving father of four daughters with wife Vanessa and an approachable celebrity who wrote bestselling children’s books, founded a multi-media company, won an Oscar as a producer in 2018 for an animated short film “Dear Basketball,” and helped put together a state-of-the-art training facility, the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where he coached one of Gianna’s basketball teams.
They and the other victims were en route to a tournament game when the tragedy occurred.
As Bryant learned to embrace his giving side and became more willing to connect with people, the public — especially in Los Angeles — loved and idolized him. Even though Bryant played his last NBA game in 2016, the “Black Mamba” as he was known continued to inspire and motivate fans and athletes locally as well as globally.
Now the rest of us grapple with how we will choose to recognize his accomplishments and acknowledge his passing.