The world stopped a year ago on this very day when news broke out that Kobe and GiGi Bryant had been involved in a horrific helicopter accident. Many fans, including myself, constantly refreshed our Google search results hoping that TMZ was just wreaking havoc on the internet yet again. Everybody hoped it was a rumor and unfortunately, it was not. When I was younger, I rocked my number 8 jersey proudly and it was the only basketball jersey I ever owned. I remember getting into arguments with my older brother who would say he was cocky and arrogant (jokingly) while I debated that Kobe was simply the best.
Kobe wasn’t just an elite NBA player, he was an icon who influenced many of our lives. From his insane work ethic to motivational interviews, the Black Mamba made everyone want to be better. His impact was and still is very powerful. He always believed it didn’t matter if you were the best, you can be better and his only true competition was himself. He wanted to be remembered for his greatness, his legacy of not only being one of the best but for his hardworking habits and leadership. He was always the one up before everyone else for practice and the last to leave, he was always finding new ways to improve his game even to the point where he asked Nike to shave his shoe cos it would speed his reaction time up to one hundredth of a second. He was a perfectionist and an overachiever.
“To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”
During an interview with USA Today Sports, he spoke about the importance of coaching his daughter and the young girls on the AAU circuit.
“What’s more important than the game itself is how you understand that their confidence as young women grows tremendously through playing a sport. You have to be very mindful of that. That’s why I think coaching youth sports is so important to take that very seriously because you’re helping the emotional (growth) of young kids. So like understanding not to be overcritical and understanding that there are going to be mistakes that are made. You just kind of let them go because like you’ll focus on one thing and say today we’re focusing on passing with the left hand. Passing with our weak hand. And that’s all you focus on. When you start out, they may travel, they may do all these other things, but you don’t point those out because if you start over-criticizing them, then it affects their self-esteem. It’s just doing it piece by piece. It’s been beautiful watching them grow.”
The Black Mamba is still the youngest to ever play in an NBA game at the age of 18 years old against the Dallas Mavericks in January 1997. When he was 19, he became the youngest player to ever be featured in an All Star game. He has also scored more points, more free-throws, and made more turnovers than any other guard in history. During his career, Bryant hit 33,643 points, made 8,378 free throws, and completed 4,010 turnovers. All three are records for his position. One of my favorite quotes from the interview was when he spoke about LeBron James passing his record.
“It’s such a juvenile thing. You play and you have a great career. I don’t understand why. I don’t know if people want that or want to have this kind of contentious thing where you don’t want records to be broken or people there to surpass you. You should be happy for the person that comes after you to be able to surpass things that you’ve done. It’s kind of juvenile to think or to behave any other way.”
Bryant’s final interview was with Arash Markazi of the L.A. Times on October 21, 2019 before the season opener of the Lakers and the Clippers the very next day. In the sit down, he emphasized on how coaching the youth is extremely important especially when it comes to their mental state moving forward in their future.
During his tribute, Michael Jordan tearfully delivered a farewell speech that had the entire stadium in tears as he spoke on Kobe’s passions as a basketball player, as a husband, as a girl dad, etc. He compared their relationship to a brotherhood as he said “When Kobe died, a piece of me died” and every single fan can relate to this quote as we celebrate the life of our childhood hero.
Shaquille O’Neal took the mic during the ceremony as well as he said goodbye to his partner in crime. The dynamic duo won 3 titles in a row. His speech was filled with tears, laughter and many memories as he reminisced on one of his most treasured moments where he talked to Kobe about passing the ball.
With a heavy heart, The Feature Presentation sends our love and prayers to Vanessa Bryant and their beautiful family for their losses along with the families affected by the tragedy. Although it’s been a year, it’s still a little hard to wrap our heads around it.