One year ago, Kobe Bryant passed away in a tragic helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. The world shattered as millions mourned the tragedy. Fans in Los Angeles posted in front of Staples with flowers, jerseys, and candles.
Amid a pandemic, NBA players are still taking the time to reminisce and share their thoughts on the late Bryant. He left behind two decades of hard work that will forever be in people’s hearts worldwide. Bryant demonstrated the definition of the Mamba mentality.
“Use your success, wealth, and influence to put them in the best position to realize their dreams and find their true purpose,” A quote by Bryant that many people, athletes, and influencers use to fuel their dreams.
Former Laker Magic Johnson paid his respect by tweeting, “Thank you God for allowing me to enjoy 20 years as a great basketball player, athlete, husband, father, philanthropist, mentor and teacher of the game to many men and women of all ages, best friend to Rob Pelinka and brother to Jeanie Buss.”
It’s safe to say Bryant’s influence leads to many great relationships around the league. The mark he made is undeniable. All over the NBA floors is Bryant’s impact on the game. Superstars today such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, and more paid homage to the legend. Some players couldn’t even bring their words together in recent interviews because his death is still triggering a year later.
Most of the NBA players used Bryant’s career, dedication, and hard work as the blueprint to make it to the NBA. His legacy will forever live beyond the game of basketball.
This season’s Lakers look to win back to back championships to match it with last season’s title honor to Bryant. Davis said, “When the tragedy happened, it was more so, you know, let’s do it for him. And that’s what we ended up doing all last year. We know we fought to the end for a purpose, and it wasn’t just for ourselves. It was for the Bryant family. And we were able to get that accomplished.”
The Dallas Mavericks released a tribute video honoring the legend, and they also retired Bryant’s #24 jersey, announcing that no one will ever wear his number again.
Atlanta Hawks young star Trae Young flagged 24 in Bryant’s honor after hitting a three from their logo. Bryant’s impact will forever reign in the NBA, no matter the generation. James, who grew up watching Bryant told reporters that he doesn’t want to keep reliving that moment but shared a time when he first faced Bryant. “I was in awe. He was a guy, along with a bunch of other guys that was on my wall.”
James continued, “He was a guy who made the jump from high school to the NBA, so it was someone who I kind of looked up to; I was thinking about doing that my junior year in the NBA.” He went on to mention, “There’s a lot of things that die in this world, but legends never die, and he’s exactly that.”
Players who grew up in SoCal, Bryant was a Michael Jordan type of figure. Clippers star Paul George said, “He was my Michael Jordan. Growing up as a SoCal kid, he was what everybody, every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe. I attacked the game the way he played both ends. I took so many things away from him, and he made a big impression on me as a kid, just about how to go about playing the game. I credit everything, aside from God-given talent, I credit everything else from him.”
Leonard, who is also from SoCal, models his approach to the game after Bryant. Late in Bryant’s career, he embraced a mentorship role for younger players. He encouraged them to be bigger than basketball and always challenged them to work harder in the off-season and prepare mentally for the season.
We can only imagine Vanessa Bryant and her family’s pain and agony are going through right now. She released a statement asking people not to share pictures of the helicopter crash, and it was reported that she asked teams to refrain from doing tributes as well. Vanessa shared a heartfelt note on her instagram feed from Gianna’s best friends.
“Today, I received this sweet letter from one of Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey.” In the caption she states, “I love you, Aubz (as my Gigi would call you.) Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my IG.”
She continued, “My Gigi is incredible, and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much. I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too. I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right, Gigi. You still make mommy proud. I love you!”
All over social media, fans are posting videos and their memories of Bryant. Many accounts dedicated to Bryant to keep his legacy alive and the significance of his 20-year NBA career, stamped with five championships.
The Lakers franchise included Bryant’s favorite quotes, “Leave a Legacy,” placed on the ring, along with his jersey numbers and 24. There are reports that there will be a statue in honor of Bryant outside the Lakers home, the Staples Center.
Regardless of if you were a businessman or athlete, Bryant’s work ethic impacted people to bring their best. When he retired in 2016, he was on his way to create his legacy outside of sports. He won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short film for “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote and voiced in 2018.