Bigger Than Basketball & California Love: Remembering Kobe Bryant

I hated him as a player.

Growing up I always held resentment toward the Los Angeles Lakers. Even before I became a real basketball fan, I was aware of the infamous rivalry. East Coast vs. West Coast, Bird vs. Magic. One thing about growing up in New England: there is no avoiding the passionate fan base. It wasn’t until 2008, when I was 8 years old, that I really paid attention to NBA basketball and had a vested interest in it. By basketball I really just mean the Celtics—my fandom did not reach much further than that. I worshiped the original “Big 3” in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett To this day, it’s my favorite Celtics team, and the best one I’ve seen play.

I remember watching them run through that season up until the Finals, where they met Kobe Bryant. I obviously knew who Kobe was and that he was one of the best scorers in the league. I yelled Kobe’s name every time I threw something in the garbage, like everyone else. It wasn’t until the 2008 Finals that I really understood why people did that. The guy was a walking bucket. The Celtics took the Finals in seven in a fantastic series that had me on the edge of my seat. That series planted the seed of my distaste for Kobe. It grew the next year when Kobe and company went on to easily take down the Magic in five games. And again in 2010, when the Celtics and Lakers faced off again. I remember hoping Kobe would forget how to play the game of basketball and brick every shot of the series. Obviously, that did not happen; in another seven game series, the Lakers took down the C’s, giving Kobe his fifth ring and second Finals MVP Award. It was crushing to watch, having followed the Celtics all year and making it that far, just for Kobe to come out on top.

On the court Kobe was relentless, ruthless and an unapologetic champion. Off the court, Kobe was a mentor, coach and father. The stories in the media that came out about Kobe after his death were far more personal and heart melting than not flinching at a ball fake. Everybody that had a personal relationship with Kobe said that he was a caring and compassionate father. He was the coach of his daughter, Gianna’s basketball team, who also passed away in the crash.

Everybody knows that Kobe is a legend in every sense of the word. As if losing a man who had changed the game forever wasn’t enough, the way that it had happened made it all the worse. A helicopter crash accompanied by his daughter and her teammates. It is very easy to get caught up in the sports world and think that it is everything. In a sense, it is everything. It gave Kobe Bryant a platform. Five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, one Academy Award and countless memories later, it is easy to say that Kobe will always be remembered for what he did on as well as off of the basketball court.

- John Rooney

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Before discussing Kobe Bryant’s career and what he accomplished on and off the court, I want to bring light to his sexual assault accusation back in 2003 involving a 19-year-old woman. I think it is important to recognize this case and think of the victim in the wake of Bryant’s death. It is easy to get caught up in the thousands of headlines depicting Bryant’s accomplishments without a mention of the victim and the impact this experience must have had on her. The case was later dismissed when Kobe issued a public apology explaining how he thought the encounter was consensual. He continued on with his famous career while the victim was left to make sense of this life-altering experience. One can write about Bryant’s accomplishments, but at the same time it is just as important to acknowledge what the victim must have gone through as a result.

I have never been a diehard basketball fan, but I try my best to keep up with my team from my hometown, the Golden State Warriors. Usually, I’ll watch a few games here and there, but in no way do I deserve the title of a true dedicated fan. However, for me, supporting the Warriors has been a way for me to get in touch with my local roots whenever I’m feeling a little homesick.

When I heard about the passing of Kobe Bryant I truly didn’t believe it at first,a feeling that I think was similar acrossthe nation and even across the world. I was surprised at my own reaction because I knew of Kobe and his career, but beyond surface level, that was the extent of my knowledge. I found myself feeling an overwhelming sadness when I found out about his death along with his daughter and the seven others couple of years back and the two struck up

on the helicopter. In the proceeding days and weeks, many celebrities, family members, professional athletes and really everyone who had been impacted by Kobe expressed how saddened they were to hear about his death.

Beyond his 20 years with the Lakers, five NBA titles and an Oscar for his film “Dear Basketball,” Kobe’s compassion was given back to the community after his retirement. Back in 2018, Bryant opened the Mamba Sports Academy, a training facility for amateur and professional athletes. This is where he coached his daughter Gianna’s youth basketball team. Bryant was hugely involved in supporting his daughter and helping other youths in achieving their future goals.

One way that Kobe has inspired others was with his friendship with Sabrina Ionescu, point guard on the women’s basketball team at the University of Oregon. Ionescu is from the town next to mine and would compete in games against my high school. She is currently known for her impressive record of the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles and the Pac-12 Conference all-time leader in assists. She has also been a top prospect for the upcoming WNBA draft, but announced she will be staying at University of Oregon for her senior year. Kobe and Gianna would attend Ionescu’s games at Oregon and she would visit Mamba Sports Academy to help coach Gianna’s youth team. Kobe took notice of Ionescu’s talent a couple of years back and the two struck up a friendship. Ionescu spoke at the service for Bryant and Gianna on February 24. In her speech she said, “I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates, where being born female didn’t mean being born behind, where greatness wasn’t divided by gender.” That night Ionescu flew to the Bay Area from the service in Los Angeles to play Stanford where she made college basketball history. After the game she said, “That one was for him. To do it on 2/24/20 is huge... he’s looking down and he is really proud of me.”

Whether you’re from the East Coast, the West Coast or anywhere in between, Kobe Byrant left his imprint on many across the world. Aside from the rivalries, his iconic NBA career and his legacy after retirement, he will be remembered for generations to come. The legend of Kobe Bryant will never die.

May his legacy continue to inspire millions more in future generations. Mamba Forever.

- Melanie Tymn