Remembering Kobe (1978-2020)
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash on January 26th, 2020. Bryant and his daughter Gianna were two of the nine passengers killed when his helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, roughly 30 miles outside of Los Angeles. The helicopter was said to be traveling to a basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy, a training grounds owned by Bryant. The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). We will not speculate the cause of the crash until an official NTSB report is released. Instead, we look back on the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant was born on August 23rd, 1978 in Philadelphia. He attended Lower Merion High School where he graduated in 1996. He played high school basketball for the Lower Merion Aces. In his junior year he averaged 31.1 points per game and was named the Pennsylvania player of the year. In his senior year, he led his team to a state championship and won many national awards in the process. While Kobe’s high school career attracted the attention of the NCAA’s top basketball schools, he was skilled enough to bypass college and enter the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlette Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. The pick was part of a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade would go through in July of 1996 when the Laker’s signed him to a three-year 3.5 million dollar contract. Bryant became the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game at 18 years of age. Little did Lakers fans know that this 18-year-old would become their star franchise player for years to come.
Bryant started off slow in his rookie year. He was given limited playing time but continued to perform well, even for a rookie. Bryant won the 1997 Slam Dunk contest, becoming the youngest player to do so at age 18. Bryant and the Lakers would make it all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals before being beaten by the Utah Jazz 4-1. Lakers fans remained optimistic about their young star, who averaged only 7.6 points per game in his rookie season.
By his second season, Kobe Bryant proved that he would last in the NBA. He was given more playing time and scored more points. He was averaging 26 minutes played per game and 15.4 points. He was selected to play in the 1998 all star game, where he became the youngest player to ever start in the prestigious game at age 19. Bryant gained enough trust in the Lakers organization to be signed to a six-year contract extension worth $70 million in 1999.
Kobe Bryant’s career took off after 1999. Combined with teammate Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers won three NBA Championships in a row in the 2001, 2002, and 2003 seasons. During these three seasons, Bryant averaged 27.9 points per game and posted a nearly .500 field goal shooting average. He was also the youngest player to ever win three championships in the NBA.
Bryant played his entire career with the Lakers until retiring in 2016. Throughout his career he played in 1,346 games and held a 25.0 points per game average. In his retirement announcement, he thanked the NBA for all that it had done for him, but claimed he was tired of playing basketball and wanted to spend more time with his family. Following his retirement, Bryant consistently engaged in charitable organizations and causes. These organizations included
the Make a Wish Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, and the After School All Stars. Kobe and his wife Vanessa also founded their own charity, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of young athletes who were struggling to get by. He even won an Oscar for his film Dear Basketball in 2018. Kobe Bryant was far from just a basketball star; he was a truly great man.
Kobe Bryant left behind his wife Vanessa and three daughters: Bianka, Natalia, and Capri. As witnesses to his life, it’s important for us to see the legacy that he left behind, not only in the sports world. All too often we see young children looking up to celebrities that serve as poor role models. Kobe Bryant was one to break that mold. He was a loving father, husband, friend, and teammate. The drive he possessed to be the greatest at his craft transcended basketball and made him a world icon. Bryant’s life was cut too short, but his actions will leave a lasting impact.