Art by Scarlett Hatton
Story by Jadon Stoner
No introduction needed. Every news channel and social media platform is filled with the reports of the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Devastating. Horrendous. Heartbreaking. These are just a few of the words that swirled around the minds of millions of people throughout the world over the past 24 hours. Turn on ESPN, NBA network, or really any sports or news related TV channel and you will see interviews and quotes of various teammates, coaches, and media members. Dig a little below the surface, however, and you will discover that people who never even met this man have been inspired and transformed by the motivational stories of hard work and dedication of the great Kobe Bryant.
Kobe was a basketball legend; we all know that. Five-time NBA champion. Two-time Finals MVP. Voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2008. Eighteen-time all star. Over 33,000 points scored. The list of Bryant’s career accolades goes on and on. His undeniable desire to win and his willingness to sacrifice anything to achieve greatness is something we can all strive to embody. But the story of the Black Mamba goes much deeper than the bright lights of L.A. This particular story starts thousands of miles away from the beautiful coastline of Southern California in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kobe was the youngest of three children. His father, Joe Bryant, played in the NBA until Kobe was six years old. After retiring from the NBA, Joe Bryant moved him and his family to Rieti,Italy to play lower level professional basketball. Growing up, young Kobe would watch his father play and watch tapes of NBA games his grandfather would video and send to him in the mail. From this, the love of basketball sparked in Kobe and drove him through his whole career. In 1991, the family moved back to Philly and the next year enrolled Kobe in Lower Merion High School: the place where his basketball career began.
Bryant started playing varsity as a freshman and won Pennsylvania Basketball Player of the Year as a junior. He led the team to a state championship in the 1995-96 season and was receiving offers from big time colleges like Duke, North Carolina, and Villanova. After seeing Kevin Garnett taken 5th overall in the NBA draft out of high school the previous year, however, Kobe decided to go straight to the NBA. He was taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers later that night. Now, over 20 years later, and Kobe is looked at as one of the best to ever pick up a basketball.
This is a very sad time for the game of basketball and for anyone who was influenced by his greatness. It is natural to mourn in moments like these and think back to all the historical and monumental moments in his career. But I encourage all those who, like myself, missed a heartbeat when the news was confirmed, to not feel grieved or bitter, but to rather reflect on his astonishing and awe-inspiring career and try to implement part of who he was into our own lives. He was only here 41 years, and he gave it everything he had in everything he did. He lived life to the fullest, and his sudden and abrupt death is a reminder to all of us of how precious life is. Kobe’s legacy will live on forever on the court and in businesses and classrooms across the world. I think it’s safe to say there will never be another Kobe Bryant ever again. One man. One mission. One hero. One Mamba.