Death, passing, transitioning to the other side. However you want to describe it. That’s one of the few things we are all guaranteed in life. Which is also one of the most emotional, somber and hardest times most of us usually have difficulty with. Whether it be family, friends, celebrity figures and/or icons/heroes you used as your own inspiration in life. The older you get and as you grow and develop your own identity, feelings, emotions and everything else about your own self. The harder it becomes to deal and cope with. Whether it be through crying, music, art, grieving with other people, art or even writing. Perhaps even a few or all of those examples. Maybe even examples I didn’t list.
It’s with me writing this that is one of the few ways I’m able to cope myself with the tragic and shockingly untimely death of not only one of my true idols and inspirations, Kobe Bryant’s passing. But somebody who was an inspiration to many around the world in not only basketball and sports, but just life in general. His championship never give up work ethic and unquenchable competitive spirit to basketball inspired not only fellow hoopers, but entertainers as well. Most notably many Hip-Hop artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Kanye West the late great Nipsey Hu$$le, The Game, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and several others. In much the same way that one of Kobe’s own sports heroes and idols, Michael Jordan, did for his generation.
That relentlessly ferocious competitive spirit and dedication helping Bryant to 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVP’s, a regular season MVP, 2 Gold Medals for Team USA and 18 All-Star Game selections. As well as being the only player to have two jersey numbers retired and several other notable accolades throughout his 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers that I can write about for days and hours on end. One of the rare players in today’s players always changing teams Sports world to play his whole professional career with one franchise. Building not only a legacy as arguably the greatest Lakers player of all-time and one of the greatest to ever step on the hardwood of his generation, but one of the most storied and iconic legacies in the history of basketball or any sport period. Outside of Michael Jordan, there was no other player aside from Bryant who had the type of impact that really helped build the game of basketball into the worldwide phenomenon it has become.
Which is why as I write and then type this, I’m in the same type of shock, if not worse as when me and so many others heard the tragic news of somebody else who was a big part of Los Angeles, Nipsey Hu$$le. When he had his own untimely death not even a full year ago. Then for Bryant to pass now from a helicopter crash as well at such a young age himself of only 41. For both of them such large and over towering figures in L.A. to pass on a Sunday and the Lord’s day of all days as two of the most recent angels added to the, “City of Angels.” Is what makes it even more shocking and sad.
The news especially hits home for me and so many here in Chicago too cause even though we had Jordan and all of those Bulls championship teams. Which we all grew up on and had almost embedded in the blood of our DNA. A lot of us didn’t get to watch and experience the greatness of Jordan’s career from the very beginning to the end of his playing career and beyond the way we did with Kobe though. So to see him develop his game in much the same way Jordan did, but in some ways even better, it was like we never really lost Mike. Cause Kobe was the closest thing to being just as great and iconic of a player and figure as Jordan was to so many of us. But with an even greater and relentless work ethic. The way Kobe was able to take that torch of greatness from MJ and use it to do just as great, if not greater things for all of those Lakers teams throughout most of the 2000s is why me and so many others could relate too.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and then Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Enduring challenges to greatness and showing how to be both champions, on and off the court, was one of the main consistents throughout most of my childhood and well into my later teens. I remember telling my Dad once in my teens, how as a diehard sports fan that was admittedly one of the reasons I loved basketball so much. Was because as a fan of the Bulls and then eventually becoming a fan of Kobe and the Lakers as well. That was the one sport where you were almost guaranteed to see your favorite player and team win championships and show you such greatness to strive for in life, no matter what it’s you do. Which is why one of my favorite quotes from Kobe was, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” Kobe definitely did that for me and so many others in our lives, whether it was picking up a basketball, a pen to write or whatever else it maybe.
His greatness and thirst for knowledge knew no bounds in not only his playing career, but even in retirement as well. It was said Kobe’s intelligence and intellect to learn how others were great at whatever it’s they did. Whether it be a teacher, a carpenter, a composer or anything else, helped him to strive to be great at whatever it’s he did. Whether it be writing, producing, coaching or whatever else it maybe. Kobe found several ways to still inspire and move the game he loved so dearly, even in his post basketball life. Be it writing, developing and help create his 2018 Academy Award-winning animated short film, Dear Basketball or several of the other ventures he had through his own Kobe Inc. He developed in 2014 to own and grow his own brands in the sports industry, such as being one of the key early investors in Bodyarmor. Not to mention his best-selling books, both autobiographical and even fantasy for kids he had started to help develop and release. Or even how he had recently had his own Bryant’s Mamba Academy built in Thousand Oaks, California. Where he coached his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s Lady Mamba Mavericks girls team and was starting to teach a new generation the game he so dearly loved. Gigi helping rekindle Kobe’s love for basketball again in retirement and helping push women’s basketball forward as well. She was already said to be turning into her own fierce competitor and truly tremendous athlete with the same type of, “Mamba Mentality,” as her own iconic figure. Which is what makes her own loss along with Kobe’s even more heartbreaking and heart-wrenching for so many. Cause she still had her own life and story that was perhaps bound to be as historic as her Dad’s was, but for women’s basketball and the WNBA.
An underrated aspect of what made Kobe so great was not only his greatness on the floor, but his unrelenting and unwavering commitment as a loving father to his four daughters, Natalia, Gigi, Bianka and Capri, as well as a loving and committed husband to his wife, Vanessa. That made him a little bit more relatable to people from all walks of life. Which is why the bond he really started to develop even more with Gigi over a game they both loved so much, to be taken so instantly when they were on their way of all places to a tournament she was expected to play in, made the already sad, tragic and shocking news even more heartbreaking. Also why it hit so many of us even harder too. Cause for anyone who has kids or nieces or nephews, that’s something we can almost all relate to, is that you never want to lose someone you help raise. Let alone to a tragedy like that.
Something I realized that’s eerily shocking and spooky about Kobe’s death too is that 13 is said to be a bad luck number, but in the case of myself and most of my family has always been a lucky number. With me and my Mom both being born on Friday, the 13th, but separate months. Me in June and my Mom in December. Not to mention my youngest nephews birthday being October 13th and my Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary on August 13th. While 13 also appeared to be a lucky number for Kobe, being drafted 13th overall in arguably the best NBA Draft class of all-time with the 1996 NBA Draft. Not to mention scoring the most points by a player in their final NBA game with his 60 points against the Utah Jazz in his final NBA game on April 13th, 2016. Then there is the one bad instance though with his death on January 26th, 2020, adding up to 13. It’s crazy and eerie how mostly good, but even in bad too that number shows up for me and even people I idolized as the last of my sports heroes I had growing up.
It’s when I write things like that or how his second act in life he was just getting started and looking like it could be just as great, if not better than his actual playing days. It hits you even more that now, not only will we not be able to see if that would be able to happen, but we also wouldn’t get to see what was easily one of the most anticipated Hall of Fame speeches. When he was almost assuredly as a forgone conclusion set to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility later this year. That and the fact that as much as we see our heroes like your Kobe Bryant’s, Michael Jordan’s, Michael Jackson’s, Prince, Stevie Wonder, and other iconic larger than life figures as people you thought were invincible and would never die. We all unfortunately, famous or not, pass at some point in this time we have here in this lifetime. Nobody lives forever and it’s unfortunate that in moments like these is when we truly realize our time here is borrowed and only for a certain amount of time. So as much as it’s cliche to say, you got to really appreciate your own life and those of your family, friends, loved ones and those others you know even more while they’re still here. Don’t forgot to tell each other how much you love and appreciate each other to cause you never know when your own mortality or even others will be.
It’s with that I close and say, me, my colleague Todd and the rest of TheHipHopDemocrat staff wish our condolences and send our heartfelt prayers to Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, his three surviving daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, the rest of his family, friends, fellow fans and loved ones in this difficult time. As well as the other passengers families who were on board the plane and lost their lives as well. This is a huge blow that’s going to take a while for a lot of us to process and like Kobe said when he retired nearly four years ago. The only appropriate way to close this out besides our prayers and condolences for Kobe, his family, friends and fellow fans as well as the rest of the those on board. Is, “Mamba Out.”