The whole world is still reeling in shock from the tragic news that broke out of Los Angeles on Sunday morning. There remains that palpable sense of loss, permeating the very air that we breathe. On that fateful day, the world had not only lost one of its biggest icons, it had lost someone who was larger than life itself.
And I am not even a big fan of basketball, or of any kind of sport for that matter. But to say that I had never felt the impact Kobe Bryant had made on the game, or the world at large, would be a flat-out lie. He had transcended the very game he became famous for, even before he had been forced to retire in 2016 due to injuries sustained over the course of his 20-year professional career.
He became the only athlete in history to win an Academy Award in 2018, an award he’d won for his animated short film, Dear Basketball. That distinction alone exemplifies why Kobe was much more than a great basketball player, but a great human being overall.
His career in the NBA started in 1996, when he became the youngest player to be drafted at the tender age of 17. He had been drafted straight out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets, but was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he would spend his 20-year professional career playing for. He played alongside Shaquille O’Neal, both of whom proved instrumental to the Lakers winning three consecutive NBA championships between 2000 and 2002.
Kobe amassed a total of 5 NBA championships with the Lakers, won two Olympic gold medals and was an 18-time All-Star. In 2008, he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player. He was also the highest scoring player for two seasons, and was the third overall highest scoring player of all time, before being passed by Lebron James just one week ago.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” he’d tweeted in response to the news, mere hours before his untimely demise. “Much respect my brother.”
The news that Kobe had died in a helicopter crash began circulating on Sunday morning. But perhaps what made it hardest to bear was learning that he had been traveling along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. The pair had become particularly close (a closeness that gave birth to a recent viral meme), after Kobe started coaching her high school basketball team. They had been on their way to a basketball game slated for later that afternoon, along with 7 others, when their helicopter had crashed into a mountain at Calabasas in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and his three remaining daughters, Natali, Bianka and Capri.