Cocky. Arrogant. Selfish. Confident. Exhilarating. Greatness. Loyalty. All these words are thrown around when Kobe Bryant is being discussed. Whether you loved him or hated him, there is no denying the impact Bryant leaves on basketball and the sports world as a whole.
Bryant played 20 seasons in the NBA, all of them for the Los Angeles Lakers, after he chose to forgo college basketball and head straight to the pros from Lower Merion High School in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bryant was surrounded by basketball from a young age. His father, Joe Bryant, played in the NBA for eight seasons. He played four of those eight with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Kobe was originally drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the famous 1996 NBA Draft. However, Bryant was traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac before he could even suit up in a Hornets uniform.
With the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal in free agency, Bryant and O’Neal were able to create one of the most dominant forces the game of basketball has ever seen. Bryant and O’Neal three-peated as NBA Finals champions from 2000-2002, something that hasn’t been done since. Bryant went on to win back to back championships in 2009-2010, along with the Finals MVP award both years. This time, he won without O’Neal, despite critics saying he would never be able to win a title without O’Neal's help.
Besides his five championships, Bryant leaves behind a list of accomplishments that could run throughout this entire edition of the Hawks' Herald. To save paper though, here are just a few, according to Basketball Reference.
18 time All Star (a record which still stands today), 12 time All Defensive Team (second all time), two time scoring champion and one MVP (which is a whole different discussion).
Bryant’s career accomplishments do not do him justice for the person he was outside of basketball. An Academy Award winner, author, investor, intellect and advocate for the game of basketball around the world. A cultural icon, whether it is yelling “Kobe!” while shooting a crumpled up piece of paper into the trash, repping his shoes and jerseys, or scrolling through Kobe memes on social media. Most importantly though, a father, or a girl dad and a family man. Bryant leaves behind his wife Vanessa of 18 years, along with his other three daughters.
The special relationship Kobe and Gianna shared through basketball reached students on our Bristol campus as well.
Bryant’s promotion of women’s basketball also transcended across the globe.
Of course Bryant had some lows. His sexual assault case in 2003 is without a doubt rock bottom. These lows also extended throughout his fractured relationship with his parents after they chose not to attend his wedding, along with their decision to auction off memorabilia throughout his high school and professional career without his permission.
Not to mention, his various feuds with teammates, most notably Shaq, which caused a rift in their relationship until recently and affected the future of the league when the duo ceased in 2004. Yet, these feuds with teammates were almost always due to Bryant’s competitiveness and desire to win. It was done to bring the best out of his teammates and opponents.
“I can't think of another person or athlete that has ever had this much of an impact on the world," said John Ah Kao, a freshman on the Men's Basketball Team.
Kobe Bryant is and was a part of many lives, young and old, athlete or not. You may not have loved him, you may not have hated him, but you sure as hell have to respect the player and human he truly was. Rest in peace to one of the greatest to ever lace them up… the Black Mamba… Kobe Bryant. Rest in peace to Gianna Bryant, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan as well.