On Sunday, January 26, 2020, former Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant died tragically in a helicopter crash along with eight other passengers, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Bryant shaped a generation of basketball, inspiring kids all across the planet with his work ethic, drive, skill, and killer instinct. After retiring from the NBA, Bryant was one of the most vocal advocates for women’s basketball, supporting athletes like Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne, Sabrina Ionescu, and his daughter Gianna, among many others. He was also an Academy award-winning film producer for his short film “Dear Basketball”. Bryant had much more left to give, and it was all taken away in a heartbeat. Here are the reactions from Voice Staffers on what Kobe meant to them.
Eli Lefcowitz, Social Media Editor:
Much has already been said about Kobe’s on-court legacy, but I think that his post-retirement life speaks the most about his character. He worked tirelessly to promote women’s sports when few other male players were willing to speak up. He didn’t just talk about the women’s game, he took action– attending games with his family, coaching his own daughters, and raising awareness of the gender inequity in sports. His passing is a tremendous loss for all, but especially a generation of female athletes who will never get to see one of their role models smiling down from the sidelines.
Cameron Smith, Website Editor:
When I first started truly getting into the NBA, Kobe Bryant was a myth. He was out on injury for most of the 2013-2014 season after tearing his Achilles tendon at 34 years old–an injury notorious for crippling players’ careers. But fans still had hope that he would come back. Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality,” his utterly inhuman drive succeed, had never wavered.
Kobe’s work ethic has become fabled in and of itself. Two years ago, I tore my ACL. The injury is similar to Kobe’s, but it’s more common for players to return to form from an ACL injury. I still haven’t fully returned to playing sports. That Kobe suffered a worse injury, well into his 30’s, worked his way back into the NBA, and then continued to play until he was 37, shows how unbelievably driven he was. NBA players and fans often tell and retell stories that cultivated his legendary status: showing up to practice hours early, learning new languages to trash talk opponents, or refusing to go home until he made some ludicrous number of free throws. Kobe has become synonymous with literally unflinching ambition.
I didn’t watch the “prime” of his basketball career, but I have still witnessed the indomitable spirit that Kobe was. Since retiring, he started a successful $100 million venture capital fund, went on to win an Oscar for his animated short expressing his love for basketball, and worked with the Aspen Institute to research better ways of structuring youth sports. He didn’t have to do those things, but he did. “Kobe.”
Arshan Goudarzi, Assistant Halftime Sports Editor:
Before I was into basketball I was sold on Kobe Bryant. He had an energy towards basketball that I wanted to emulate in my life, and his mentality will always be an inspiration to me.
Aaron Wolf, Staff Writer and former Sports Executive:
Kobe’s legacy of commitment to excellence and ambition left an indelible mark not just on basketball, but on our society as a whole. He embodied greatness to the fullest extent both on and off the court, demonstrating an all-time great work ethic and passion to be the best in whatever life threw at him. Kobe’s character inspired so many within the NBA and beyond, including his daughter Gianna who began to take on his qualities. They both deserved better, but regardless, the Mamba Mentality will always be with us.
Tristan Lee, Sports Editor:
Growing up as a Lakers fan in southern California, there was nobody else in sports who I idolized like Kobe Bryant. On the court alone, there was nobody like him. The Mamba Mentality. The play style. Nobody could do it like Kobe. Kobe’s jersey was the first I ever owned. The only basketball player I had on my wall growing up. The first game I ever attended at Staples, he dropped 42 in a triple OT win over Phoenix. My friends and I were so spoiled having Kobe as the leader of our team, it felt like every game we were going to win. Why? Because Kobe would be there at the end of the game to make the clutch shot. Every game through the 2009 and 2010 playoffs we knew we would win because of Kobe. The clutch factor was unlike anything else I’ve ever witnessed. And that doesn’t even get into the impact that he made off the court. We’ve seen better players, and we will see better players in the future, but there’s a reason every person in our age group yelled KOBE when throwing a crumpled piece of paper in the trash bin; the Mamba was one of a kind. RIP KOBE.
Josh Klein, Design Executive:
As a diehard college basketball fan, I never really had a favorite NBA team or player. That said, when people used to ask me whether I was a Kobe or Lebron stan, it was always Kobe. No hesitation. The first basketball shoes I ever picked out were white and purple Kobes, mostly because the lowtop felt more like running shoes, but also because aside from the Duke players who turned pro, I never idolized another player. The tragedy hit me hard. A Kobe yellow 24 jersey is the only NBA jersey I have ever owned, and for years my competitive fire has lined up well with the Mamba Mentality. I hated to lose in summer camp. Ask any of my counselors about the amount of times I cried or had to be put in timeout over the frustration of losing. I used to sketch the NBA finals logos, and a Lakers 2009 championship sketch hung on my garage wall for as long as I can remember. After processing yesterday’s news, Kobe Bryant meant more to me than I really thought. He was the only NBA player I ever idolized, and the world will deeply miss him.
Nathan Chen, Assistant Sports Editor:
When I was in elementary school, my parents often worked until 6:00, so I had to stay in after-school care. One of the adults watching after us was Luther Wade, also known as Mr. Luther. Mr. Luther was no ordinary man – he was Dwyane Wade’s cousin. But Mr. Luther’s favorite team was always the Lakers, and around this time, Kobe Bryant was the man. Mr. Luther taught me how to play basketball, how to be part of a team, how to win, and how to lose. He would show us highlights of Kobe’s games in the epic Finals matchups with the Boston Celtics and emphasize how important it was to work harder than anybody else would work. Kobe was at his best in my formative years, and he got me into basketball. More importantly, Kobe taught me about motivation, resiliency, and hard work by using Mr. Luther as a messenger. My story is representative of so many other players and coaches who were touched by the Black Mamba, and it’s still unbelievable that he’s departed from this world. Kobe’s legacy lives on, not only with every kid who keeps shooting when the gym lights go out, but with every kid that has a dream and works hard to achieve their goals. R.I.P.