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Kobe Bryant’s legacy is more than just basketball

Reflecting on the untimely death of one of sport’s most memorable icons.

You will be missed, Kobe.
| Photo by Nathaniel S Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I know this is a website for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but every now and then, there is a story that transcends our world of Pewter & Red.

Unfortunately, we were given one of those stories on Sunday. Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players in NBA history, and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, was among those killed in the crash.

I remember watching Kobe growing up. I spent 20 years of my life in simultaneous awe and frustration as the Black Mamba did his thing game in and game out. He played with a tenacity and a passion not seen since Michael Jordan. The dude was not afraid of anything or anyone. I mean, he stood up to Shaq for God’s sakes.

It’s hard for me to think of another athlete that pissed me off as much as they amazed me. Kobe would routinely go off against my Memphis Grizzlies. He would straight up pound them like a game of Whack-a-Mole almost every time they faced each other.

But I loved it. I loved watching him drain a fadeaway 3 from the corner. I loved watching him talk trash up and down the court. I even loved watching him split Tony Allen and Zach Randolph en route to one of his signature dunks.

It was exhilarating, intense, and soul-crushing all at once. It was a remarkable mix of feelings and I don’t think any player will ever make me feel that way again.

There are few athletes that give you the “I remember when” moment, but Bryant gave us plenty. He was special. He was great. He was everything you wanted in a player on your favorite team.

Fear wasn’t an option for the Mamba, nor was it ever a decision. He was never scared of the moment or of anyone who got in the way of his desire to be the best. That fearlessness told a generation of athletes - and people in general - to take risks, to not take “no” for an answer, and to make your own path in life.

But it’s not all about what he did on the basketball court. That said fearlessness impacted millions around the world. Bryant was an icon off the hardwood. Whether it was through his charities, his camps, his relationships with players in and around the NBA - the “Mamba Mentality” was more than just making the game-winning shot.

For Kobe, that mentality wasn’t just about basketball. It was about family, as well.

This is situation is terrible as a whole in its own right, but the real tragedy in this story is Gianna, the young girl who had dreams larger than her own father’s. A young girl who only began to crack the surface of the world and all its complex beauty. She had so much potential and so much to offer. You could tell that she was destined for greatness and with Kobe guiding the way, the sky was the limit.

I don’t have children, but I have a child on the way, and I can tell you - it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about what Vanessa Bryant and Kobe’s other daughters are going through right now.

You can tell from the clips that surfaced throughout the day that Kobe and Gigi had a special bond, one that all parents dream they can share with their own child. It’s easy to see how proud he is when he talks about her, whether you’re reading his words via an article or watching an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. It’s something words really can’t describe, no matter how hard I try to make them come to life on your screen.

He was not only her father, but he was also her best friend. The bond they share will last forever, but unfortunately, it will no longer be in this world.

And that’s what makes this so damn sad.

It serves as a painful reminder that athletes are humans, too. We like to think they’re invincible and that they don’t operate on the same level as “normal people” do, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. They are made of flesh and blood, just like us. They have feelings, just like us.

And they have families, just like us.

Life comes at you fast. It can be beautiful, amazing, confusing, and terrifying all at once, but it’s also fragile. Extremely fragile. Navigating this crazy existence is a tough deal, but when you have the right people around you, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Kobe was that light for a lot of people, and that light will never fade. A legacy such as this doesn’t just disappear. It will continue to burn as strong as ever through the days and into the nights, while wounds heal.

RIP Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant.

Please remember the others involved in the crash, as well. This is a terrible tragedy that will affect many, many lives. John Altobelli, an Orange County baseball coach, was also on the helicopter along with his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa. Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at the Mamba Sports Academy.

Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, California was also onboard. The pilot and two other passengers haven’t been named.

Whether it’s thoughts, prayers, good vibes, - whatever. The families of all involved could certainly use any and all good intentions sent their way.

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