By STANLEY MORIGUCHI AND ALLAN ZENG
On January 26th, Laker and basketball legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash along with his second eldest daughter Gianna (Gigi) Bryant and 7 other passengers.
Kobe’s death may have very well been the most shocking celebrity death this century, and certainly the most tragic death of an athlete. Kobe was the embodiment of a real life hero, accomplishing things that were never thought possible, such as the time he knocked down two free throws right after tearing his achilles. Kobe, for so many, (especially in Southern California) was a hero and an idol, and University High was no exception.
Senior and Boy’s Basketball player Arjun Gill spoke of Kobe’s passing.
“When I found out I really couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day except cry. While I was crying I was kinda saying to myself ‘I don’t even know this man, why am I crying so much?’. But then I realized, the reason I was crying so much and was so shocked, was because I lost my hero. To any kid who grew up playing and loving basketball their whole life, Kobe was like a real-life Superman, who was thought to be larger than life and for myself and other people around the world, every time we played basketball we wanted to be exactly like him.That’s why Kobe’s death hit me so hard, because in your heart you can never imagine the day when your Superman passes away”.
Kobe’s list of accomplishments throughout his career are jaw-droppingly numerous, yet his impact culturally may have transcended them. The “mamba mentality” he carried, the mentality of never quitting, of never letting yourself get outworked, can be seen in young players throughout sports on every level, from professionals to primary school athletes. His immense popularity was not just because of his prodigious talent, but also because of his demeanor and charisma. He was certainly one of the most beloved players ever, and his reception at road games in his farewell tour in 2016, when he was cheered in every arena, was a testament to that. It’s no surprise then, that his death brought shock and sadness to a great many people.
Senior and Boys Lacrosse player Matthew McCarthy talked about his reaction to Kobe’s death. “I was in disbelief really. I remember seeing it on my phone, thinking it was a joke at first, like this is just a fake celebrity death. Every one of my teammates was in utter shock, no one was expecting it. He still had so much to live for, and had such an impact on all of our lives, no one could really fathom what happened. Everything he did on and off the court inspired people to work harder and be a better person in general. I think that’s why so many people see Kobe as a legend and a good role model. Even if people didn’t know much about basketball, they’ve probably seen a video of Kobe Bryant doing something amazing. He was just an incredible person, and it’s horrible he had to pass this way.”
Still, despite all of his legendary successes, it would be dishonest to pretend Kobe was the perfect individual. During his playing career, he faced a good deal of criticism, from his perceived selfishness, to his attitude towards certain teammates, and to his playing style. Although the charges against him were dropped, his 2004 rape case must be mentioned when telling Kobe’s story. Kobe Bryant was not flawless, and it’d be unfair to both ourselves and him to remember him like he was. However, that does not at all mean we shouldn’t acknowledge his admirable mentality and accomplishments in his life, both on and off the court. Year after year, he proved his doubters wrong, going on incredible scoring streaks, leading team USA to 2 Olympic gold medals, winning an MVP and 5 NBA finals, and even receiving an Oscar for his short film. Off the court he was a mentor to several players, planting the seeds for the next generation of basketball. However, his most praiseworthy achievement may have been the love and care he raised his daughters with.
Junior and girl’s volleyball player Kimia Java, who at one point was teammates with Kobe’s eldest daughter Natalia, recalled how Kobe supported his family. “My earliest memory of actually seeing Kobe Bryant was at his daughter Gigi’s soccer game and my mom really wanted a photo but he kindly told her no, and that he just wanted to spend time with his family. I’ve met Kobe, and I’m friends with his oldest daughter. She was on my volleyball team so we would see each other at least 3 times a week and for the majority of practices and every single game, Kobe was there watching and supporting his daughter and the team. He’s a very kind person and one of the most dedicated parents I’ve met.”
Kobe’s insane work ethic and determination to be the best at basketball, inspired countless people around the world, especially in LA, where the people watched Kobe go from an 18 year old bench player, to a superstar. He gave people dozens of unforgettable moments in basketball, showing how you can achieve anything through hard work and dedication. Kobe’s death reminded people how we’re all human, and that nobody is invulnerable or immortal. When Kobe died, he didn’t go out as a basketball superstar but as a parent taking his daughter Gianna to a basketball game. And personally, I believe that’s the best way Kobe should be remembered. Not as an incredible basketball player, but instead an individual who was human like the rest of us, someone that tried to be the best in everything he did, being a parent included. And I think that’s how we should best honor his memory, by trying to emulate the most normal, human part of him. The part that was simply a father and a husband. We don’t have to be a special, prodigal talent to, “be like Kobe”. The best way to be like him is to be a great parent, sibling, or child. To cherish and care for your loved ones.Kobe will forever be remembered to all of those that have witnessed his greatness, and his “mamba mentality” will forever be carried on for generations to come, not only to the world of sports, but to all pursuits and endeavors.
In Kobe’s own words: “Mamba Out”.