Dear Kobe,

Ryan Hudson, Sports Writer

Early Sunday morning, Jan. 26th, 2020, the basketball world, sports world, the city of Los Angeles and many others were in absolute shock as the news broke that basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a tragic helicopter accident over Calabasas, California. 

Kobe and his daughter Gianna were on their way to a travel basketball game early Sunday morning when the helicopter they were flying in plummeted to the ground. The cause of the crash has yet to be confirmed, but experienced pilots believe that it may have been caused by going too fast at low altitudes and misjudging the terrain and weather conditions that day.

Traveling by helicopter was nothing new to Bryant as it became his primary way of traveling around LA long before his playing career was over. A rather routine flight quickly turned into a tragedy.

Local officials to the scene received a call about a helicopter crashing in the area around 9:45 a.m. and said that brush fires were ignited by the crash that were stopping emergency personnel from getting to the crashed helicopter quickly. There were no survivors of this tragic incident.

Bryant racked up plenty of accolades during his career, a five time NBA Champion, NBA MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist, and two time finals MVP. He also ranks fourth all-time in points with 33,643 total points scored. In his twenty year career, Bryant was selected to 15 All-NBA teams (11 times to the All-NBA First Team),  12 All-Defensive teams, nine times to the All-Defensive first team. He was selected to the NBA All-Star game 18 times and won All-Star game MVP on four separate occasions.

While not many players have more accolades than Bryant, his legacy is more than his basketball career. Bryant was truly bigger than basketball. With his off-court stories and his truly great work ethic, he influenced not only athletes, but people in general to work hard and be the best at what they do. His “Mamba Mentality” refers to the fact that he never stopped working at his game and truly had a different mindset that he was going to be great. This mindset inspired many athletes to keep working and to constantly be improving their craft.

Jay Williams, a great college player who only played one year in the league due to a motorcycle accident, had this to say on ESPN about Bryant: “I always tried to outwork people. I’m going to come to Staples Center at three and make sure I make 400 shots before I [relax] and get ready for the game.” For reference, the game was at 7 p.m. that night so three was an early time to be at the game and most wouldn’t get there until later. “Who do I see? I see Kobe Bryant, already working out. I worked out for a good hour and a half. When I came off, after I was done, I sat down of course I still heard the ball bouncing.” Williams continued, “I was like, ‘this guy is still working out?’ [Kobe] looked like he was in a dead sweat when I got here, and he’s still going. It’s not like his moves are lazy, he is doing game moves.”

That story is a great representation of Bryant’s work ethic. He was always the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. Many of the younger athletes today were inspired by his legendary work ethic and looked up to him as a player. In his retirement, Bryant made no shortage of friends around the league and gave many of the game’s young talent like Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young words of encouragement that stuck with them. He famously told Booker to “be legendary” and spoke to Doncic in his native language Slovenian from the sideline. To no one’s surprise, his death impacted the basketball world the most.

Many players posted a tribute about Bryant throughout Sunday and Monday, and all the NBA games that have taken place in the last couple of games have included a 24 second shot clock violations and an 8 second backcourt violation to honor the two numbers he wore during his career, 24 and 8.

LeBron James, who was seen crying after getting off the plane back in LA just one day after passing Bryant for third all time in points scored, took an extra day to post about his friend.

View this post on Instagram

I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Longtime teammate, friend, and brother Shaquille O’Neal was very emotional after the tragic events Sunday.

Trae Young, recently named to his first All-Star game as an All-Star starter, had this to say on Twitter about Bryant’s daughter Gianna.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tweeted this to honor the passing of a legend and said that no one would ever wear the number 24 again in the Mavericks organization.

It not only affected the NBA world as several others were impacted by these events.

Kids all over the world have yelled “Kobe” as they shot trash into a trash can for years, including many students here at Bloomington High School South. Senior Nate Taylor organized a tribute to the future hall of famer in his first period class, “I made everyone paper balls and we all shot them at the trash can at 8:24 am and yelled ‘Kobe!’ while doing it.”

Senior point guard Noah Jager explained how Kobe had inspired him as a player. “Growing up I was a Lebron fan so Kobe wasn’t always my favorite player, but the thing I loved about Kobe was his competitive nature and how he was very driven,” Jager explained. “Even though he was hard to play with at times he was always trying to do what was best for the team and get the most out of his teammates and pushed them to be their best selves.The worst thing about his death and his daughter’s death is that they still had so much more to give to the basketball world and were going to continue to add to their legacy.”

Long time Laker fan, Kobe enthusiast, and senior Teddy Lashley spoke on what made Kobe Bryant his favorite player.

“His drive and passion for the game; No matter who or when he was playing, he gave it 110%.” 

With so many great Kobe Bryant, senior Aditya Shah had a hard time picking just one iconic moment as his favorite.“My favorite Kobe moment was him walking back on to the court to hit both free throws after tearing his Achilles,” said Shah. For those of you who don’t know this moment, the Lakers were down 109-107 to the Golden State Warriors when Kobe collapsed to the ground when driving to the basket after drawing a foul. The Lakers called a timeout and Kobe walked on his own to the bench. Kobe, determined to keep playing, walked over to the free throw line hit both free throws and tied the game at 109-109. Doctors say his ability to walk that far on his own with a torn Achilles goes beyond what is considered medically possible. Truly a legendary moment in a legendary career.

After his retirement Kobe said he had no reason to come back to Staples Center, that was until his 13 year old daughter Gigi wanted to go to basketball games to improve her game and get  better at basketball. Kobe had said in an interview that she had the same “killer instinct” that he had. His daughter had dreams of making it to the WNBA and was well on her way to success.

In an emotional segment on ESPN yesterday, Ellie Duncan recalled a story about the time she met Kobe. She told him that she was having a girl and he replies “Girls are the best, just be grateful you have been given that gift, because girls are amazing.” At the time Kobe only had three kids and confessed that him and Vanessa were going to try again for a boy this time. She asked him how he would feel to have four girls and he replied with no hesitation, “I would have five more girls if I could, I’m a girl dad.” Holding back tears, Duncan said Bryant pointed out that Gianna was “a monster, a beast, and better than I was at her age.” In her closing statement, Duncan stated, “when I reflect on the tragedy and the half an hour I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most. Being a dad. Being a girl dad.”

Kobe Bryant will certainly be missed by many and had a great impact on many people’s lives. The amount of people he touched and inspired is immeasurable and his impact as not only a great basketball player but also as a great person is truly legendary. He is eligible to enter the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year and is likely to make it in on his first ballot. While we will never get to hear his Hall of Fame speech, his legacy has already been cemented and will live on in the hearts of many fans across the world.