24: The Life of A Legend

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image courtesy of ' www.eonline.com '

Sasha Legagneur, Editor-in-Chief

       Kobe Bean Bryant was born in the state of Pennsylvania on the 23rd of August, 1978. Bryant’s father, Joe Bryant, had played in the National Basketball Association (NBA)  for a number of seasons. Once his NBA career came to a close, he moved his family to Italy. Growing up in Italy, Bryant discovered his love for the game of Basketball. In 1991 , the family decided to travel back to Pennsylvania. When he returned, Kobe joined his high school’s basketball team. With his goal being to make it to the NBA , he trained with the 76ers. Although he had impressive grades , Bryant decided to go straight to the NBA after high school. He first played for the Charlotte Hornets but later joined the Los Angeles Lakers. 

        Kobe Bryant boasted an exceptional, record breaking career while in the NBA.  Bryant was selected to be starter for the All Star game that took place in 1998. To this day, Bryant holds the title of the youngest player to ever be considered an All Star. 

        To perpetuate his career even further, Kobe partnered with large corporations such as Adidas and Sprite. In 2001, he married his wife, Vanessa , whom he had four children with. When the Lakers battled the Toronto Raptors in 2006, Bryant gained 81 points for the team, the second largest single game score in the history of the association. For the 2006-2007 season, Bryant switched his jersey number from 8 to 24. For Kobe, this switch represented a transformative stage in his life. As reported by www.cbssports.com , Bryant stated “ When I first came in at 8, is really trying to plant your flag sort of thing. I got to prove that I belong here in this league. You’re going after them. It’s nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff…Then 24 is a growth from that. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve.” In 2008, the NBA superstar was awarded the title of ‘Most Valuable Player’ and was declared the third player on the all time NBA scoring inventory in 2013. In the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, Kobe and his teammates struck gold as representatives of the United States.

          Just like every athlete does, Bryant suffered difficult injuries during his career. In 2013, he hurt his Achilles Tendon and injured his knee only six games into the season. In addition, he suffered from a torn rotator cuff in the beginning of 2015. 

         Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Although he was able to return for the next season, Bryant felt he could not catch up to his younger teammates. As a result, the basketball icon declared that the 2015-2016 season would be his last. When discussing matters, he said the following ; “This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind, but my body knows its time to say goodbye”(www.theplayerstribune.com).  The news especially hit hard for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, describing Bryant’s love for the sport as ‘unconditional’. Kobe Bryant played his last game on April 3, 2016 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The arena was filled with cheering fans and loyal teammates , all ready to celebrate one of the greatest in the game. “ We are here to celebrate greatness for 20 years”, NBA icon Michael Jordan said. “Excellence for 20 years. Kobe Bryant has never cheated the game, never cheated us as the fans. He has played through injury, he has played hurt. And we have five championship banners to show for it”(www.biography.com). 

               Although his NBA career had come to an end, Bryant continued to work on other projects. In 2015, Bryant reported his retirement with a poem named “Dear Basketball”. Afterwards, he sought creative talents to transform his poem into a film. His five minute and 20 second production  was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017. As an applause to the film, ‘Dear Basketball’ won the award for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ at the 2018 Oscars. 

                Still, Bryant’s work did not end there. Kobe Bryant was not only an all star in his sport, but also in his philanthropic efforts. He associated himself with the organization ‘After School All Stars’, which strives to prolong the amount of time needy students spend in school. In addition, he and his wife started the ‘ Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation’ , along with a summer program known as the Kobe Basketball Academy. This foundation offers scholarships and guides young players to become models in their sports. Furthermore, Bryant made over 250 contributions to the Make- A- Wish Foundation and donated around $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

 

            On January 26, 2020 the world froze as a devastating headline spread across the media . Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mousser, and Ara Zobayan all fell victim to a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. All nine members were travelling to the Mamba Sports Academy for a basketball game. News of the crash came like a blunt force, spinning people’s emotions from left to right. Tears fell not only for the loss of one of the greatest in the game, but for the loss of a friend, a husband,a brother, and a father. We lift our prayers up for those who lost their loved ones in this horrific incident. 

          Ever since the accident, many tributes have been made in honor of Kobe and Gianna. The Grammy Awards took place at the Staples Center , where Kobe played numerous games. Bryant’s jersey numbers hung in the arena and images of him were on display throughout the night. Alicia Keys, Boys II Men, and Lizzo were among the artists who gave a shout out to the victims. 

         On February 26,2020 , the ‘Celebration of Life’ Ceremony took place in the Staples Center as a memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the ceremony, was witnessing Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife of 20 years, speak in remembrance of her husband and daughter. To close her speech, Vanessa beautifully stated, “ God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi, and Koko, and we’re still the best team” ( www.cnn.com ). The arena filled with applause and awe as a woman who had suffered so much pain courageously spoke of her loss. 

         When discussing what it means to be a legend, we must look at how an individual found their calling and used it to impact those around them. Although impressive, Kobe Bryant will not only be remembered because of the amount of points he scored in his career. He is a legend because of how his work ethic inspired people to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. He is a legend because of how he invested his money, time, and energy into the next generation. Kobe Bryant once said, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” May he rest in peace knowing that this is exactly what he did.

Information courtesy of www.biography.com , www.cnn.com , www.theplayerstribune.com, www.cbssports.com