Kobe Bryant: The Legacy of the Black Mamba


Malcolm Allen, Sports Editor

On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying eight passengers and a pilot crashed into a hill in Calabasas, California, killing all nine on board. The deaths include: pilot Aro Zaboyan, John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, Gianna Bryant, and her father, retired NBA shooting guard Kobe Bryant, whose death shocked the entire world.

Shortly following Kobe’s death, many athletes, celebrities, and fans paid tribute by social media. Many fans gathered at the Staples Center, the arena that Kobe’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, have been playing in for 20 years, and left jerseys, flowers, and notes. The 62nd Grammy Awards, that occurred at the Staples Center that same night, saw many artists such as Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men, Lil Nas X, and DJ Khaled, among others, pay tribute to Bryant.  The National Basketball Association changed the format of their annual All-Star Game for Kobe Bryant, a format that was very favorable among players, coaches, fans, and analysts, and that produced a very entertaining All-Star game. In addition, the league renamed the All-Star Most Valuable Player award, now calling it the Kobe Bryant MVP award, with Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard winning the inaugural award in February. 

In his 20 year career from 1996-2016, Kobe Bryant became known as one of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball. Throughout his career, he played in 1,346 regular season games, 220 playoff games, and was the NBA’s most valuable player in 2008. He made seven NBA Finals appearances, and won five NBA championships, taking home finals MVP honors twice. His career was filled with many incredible feats: in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant scored 81 points, which is the second-most points in a single game in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 in 1962). On April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points in a comeback victory against the Utah Jazz in what would be his final game as a Laker and in the NBA. Following his retirement, he became heavily invested in his family that included his wife Vanessa, and their three (which would later become four) daughters, embracing his role as a “girldad”. He began to coach his daughter Gianna’s basketball teams, and developed relationships with her teammates and their families. The day of the helicopter crash, the victims were on their way to a game in Thousand Oaks, California in which Kobe was coaching Gianna’s team.

His influence on the basketball world was tremendous. The majority of players in today’s NBA grew up watching Kobe Bryant play, and Bryant influenced many of the NBA’s best players to play basketball. He had a work ethic that was second to none in basketball, and his personality that became known as “Mamba Mentality” has separated him from the rest of the sports world. Kobe’s Mamba Mentality is something that many athletes have attempted to embody, and has influenced other athletes and people to work harder to pursue their passions and goals. His death devastated many sports fans around the world, and the circumstances of the accident are even more heart-breaking. On February 24, 2020, celebrities, athletes, and fans packed the 20,000-seat Staples Center for the memorial in honor of him and his daughter. There were performances from Grammy-winning artists Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Christina Aguilera. People that spoke at the memorial included Bryant’s widow and Gianna’s mother Vanessa Bryant, fellow former players Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan, women’s basketball stars Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu, late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, and Bryant’s former agent Rob Pelinka, among others. Many commended Vanessa Bryant for her incredible strength to speak at the memorial, just a month removed from losing her husband and daughter. The date was picked as 2/24/20, with the 2 to represent Gianna’s number, the 24 to represent Kobe’s number, and 20 to represent the years Kobe spent with the Los Angeles Lakers. There were 33,643 roses placed around the center of the stage, representing every single point scored by Kobe Bryant during his career. 

My condolences go out to the families of all nine victims of the crash, and I give my best wishes to them as they continue their lives without their loved ones. As for Bryant, his death had a huge impact on the sports world. He will truly be missed, but his legacy will live on through the Lakers, the National Basketball Association, and the world of sports in general. Parents will tell their children stories of his greatness, his perseverance, and his Mamba Mentality. May he and the eight other passengers rest in peace.