The extraordinary life and legacy of Kobe Bryant

Both on and off the court, Bryant’s legacy is forever etched into the hearts of fans all across the world.

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Rob Carr

Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died last month in a helicopter crash over the hills of Calabasas, Calif. He was 41 years old.

  On January 26, Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash while traveling to Gianna’s basketball game at Bryant’s basketball facility, Mamba Academy. News of the crash quickly swept across the world, leaving millions heartbroken and stunned. Outpouring support came from the NBA community, as well as on social media, where countless tributes were made in dedication to Kobe and Gianna. 

  Kobe Bean Bryant was more than just an icon. He was a competitor, a global figure, a movie producer, a family man. He touched the lives of the many he connected with over the years, and never forgot his Philly roots. 

  He showed us what it means to be dedicated to something we love and never to settle for less than greatness. He passed on his love for the game of basketball to 13-year-old Gianna, affectionately known as GiGi.

  Countless children shouted “Kobe!” while emulating his patented fadeaway. Few players have had the type of NBA resumé that Bryant boasts: 81 points in a game, five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, 18 All-Star selections, the list goes on and on. 

  Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Pamela Cox Bryant and former NBA player Joe Bryant. Pamela and Joe had seen Kobe beef on a menu and enjoyed the name so much that they decided to give the name to their son.

  Bryant spent his early years living in Italy, where his father finished up his pro career. At age 13, he moved back to Philadelphia and starred at Lower Merion High School. Fresh out of high school, he was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, but the Hornets traded their pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.

  While many 18-year-olds were busy settling into their dorm rooms in college, Bryant was quickly settling into the NBA. He found immediate stardom, winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. At age 23, he became the youngest player to win three championships, led by Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and head coach Phil Jackson’s famed triangle offense. 

  He dealt with adversity early in his career, both on and off the court. In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee. Bryant denied the allegation and the charges were later dropped, but his reputation was tarnished. 

  He infamously feuded with O’Neal during their time in Los Angeles together, leading to O’Neal’s trade to the Miami Heat in 2004 and failure to renew Jackson’s contract as head coach for the 2005-2005 season.

  In 2006, Bryant scored a franchise-record 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history. 

  Following the 2007 season, Bryant demanded a trade from the Lakers but hours later retracted his statement. He eventually was named NBA MVP of the 2007-2008 season but failed to collect a fourth title, falling to the Celtics in five games.

  Following another spectacular regular season, Bryant returned to the NBA Finals, this time coming out on top and earning his first-ever Finals MVP award. The following year, the Lakers faced off against the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, defeated their longtime rival in several games, with Bryant winning yet another Finals MVP award.

  Age finally started to catch up with Bryant in 2013 when he tore his Achilles with his team fighting for a playoff spot. He missed most of the following season with a rash of injuries, culminating with the Lakers first missed playoff appearance since 2005. 

  Bryant made the decision to make the 2015-2016 NBA season his last, citing his inability to stay healthy throughout the grueling 82 game regular season. He ended his career in typical Kobe fashion, as the “Black Mamba” dropped 60 points on 50 shots against the Utah Jazz, including 23 points in the final quarter.

  Many considered Bryant one of the greatest of all time, accurately reflected by his career numbers. Six 60 point games. 15 All-NBA selections. 12 All-Defensive Team selections. Fourth most points in NBA history, only behind the legendary names of James, Malone, and Abdul-Jabbar. 

  During his post-NBA life, Bryant became involved in the film industry, winning an Academy Award for his short film “Dear Basketball.” He also wrote The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, reflecting back on his prodigious NBA career. 

  Despite the emotional past couple of weeks, one thing remains certain: the indelible impact Bryant made on lives across the globe will never be forgotten. 

  This was the legacy Bryant wanted to leave behind. He accomplished more than one could have ever imagined, and died knowing he gave everything he had not just to the game of basketball, but to life itself. 

  Mamba out.