In Loving Memory: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant shoots a free throw as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 113-106 at the Rose Garden in Portland on April 10, 2013.

By David Perkins

Sports Editor

The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves throughout the sports world Sunday afternoon. As the news began to spread it almost seemed like another celebrity hoax.

Many people wondered how Kobe Bryant could be dead. The news came out of nowhere and to many people, Kobe seemed invincible because of his toughness on the court. He had an ability and the drive to play through injury after injury. But not on Sunday. On Sunday reality struck like a bolt of lightning. Kobe Bryant is gone.

A retrospective of Kobe Bryant’s life is a daunting task because Bryant was one of the all-time greats in the game of basketball. His impact was so great that the Los Angeles Lakers retired both of his numbers in 2017 after his retirement. Bryant was a dreamer devoted to the sport.

He was the high school basketball star who dominated his competition. So much so that he would leave his high school after graduation and take off straight to the NBA.

He was just a teenager when he donned the number 8 jersey. Kobe’s first shots in his first NBA game were air balls that made the crowd wonder if he would be able to perform under pressure at the NBA level. His stutter-step beginning in the NBA was a jolt that drove him to work.

With that shaky start, he began his journey in the NBA where he set out to prove that he belonged. He played in Shaquille O’Neal’s massive shadow. Through hard work, he proved his worth which created a feud between him and Shaq driven entirely by the competitive nature engrained in both of their personalities.

He was still a teenager when he first played side-by-side with the veteran NBA player Michael Jordan. He played against Jordan like he was just another basketball player. If he was outmatched by Jordan, which he was, you wouldn’t have known it by his demeanor on the court.

At times Kobe seemed superhuman when compared to his contemporaries. He refused to quit and played with a broken hand in 1999, a sprained ankle and sprained shoulder in 2000 as well as a number of dislocated fingers.

During the 2011-2012 season, he played multiple games with a torn ligament in his wrist receiving numb shots before every game. At one point in the season scoring over 40 points per game for four consecutive games with his injury.

In 2013 during a game against Golden State, he tore his achilles tendon and walked off the court, walked back to the other end of the court then made both of his free-throws before walking himself back to the locker room. It was a stark contrast to when Kevin Durant tore his achilles and flopped onto the court like a sack of potatoes.

Over the years, he performed so well as number 8 that it was included with the retiring of his number 24 jersey in December 2017, a year after he played his last game.

Bryant averaged 23.9 points per game while wearing the number 8 jersey and 26.3 points per game after switching to his old high school number of 24. He once scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors, putting his scoring performance at number two behind Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100 point game.

Bryant retired from the sport in 2016. He was beginning the next chapter of his life when he perished. He was in the midst of the most important phase of his life; he was focused on the role of being a father.

It is said that there is no time more important in a person’s life as when they are raising a family. That is what Kobe was doing Sunday, Jan. 26 when his helicopter fell out of control and plummeted into the mountainside in Calabasas, CA. He was taking his daughter to her basketball game. He was being a good dad.

Kobe’s life came to an abrupt and untimely end. It’s hard to imagine what his family is going through. His wife and three daughters are now reeling from their loss.

Kobe Bryant seemed fearless in life. He decided to pursue his passion of basketball and make a name for himself, and he never let fear stand in his way.

Just watch the famous gif that shows Kobe’s reaction to Matt Barnes’ shoving a basketball in his face. The “no flinch” incident illustrates how he played.

“I’ve practiced and practiced so many times. There’s nothing truly to be afraid of,” Kobe said.

On the court, he was unflappable. He seemed to play without fear and remained cool under the extreme pressure that comes with competing at the top of the heap. Off the court, he was engaged with the community and had a desire to help.

Kobe wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes along the way. But as a player and as a person, he was always changing.

Kobe was the father of four girls, and all he wanted to do from this point on was provide everything for them. Tragically, the decision to take his daughter and her friends to a game in the dense fog was fatal.

He managed to accomplish a lot in his short time, and he seemed to be starting the next big chapter of his life.

To most of the world, Kobe Bryant was a giant in the big wide world of sports. But to his family and friends, he was so much more. And he seemed to have so much left to give off the court.

He is shaking hands with Pistol Pete now.

How do you say goodbye to someone who so many have watched on the court and welcomed into their homes through their t.v. sets?

Your memory drops back to just a couple of years ago after his last game when he gave his final salute over the p.a. to his L.A. crowd. “What can I say? Mamba out.”

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