Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend Kobe Bryant tragically passed away on Jan. 26, 2020 after his helicopter crashed while flying in dense fog. The fatal crash also killed Kobe’s daughter Gianna (Gigi) along with seven other passengers aboard the helicopter with them.
The NBA world, the sporting world and many alike mourned the death of their beloved sports hero. The NBA teams who played on the 26th paid their tributes to the legend by running out the shot clock for a 24-second violation. It was represented as a symbolic gesture for the number 24 that Kobe wore during the second half of his Lakers tenure. In addition, some teams also held the basketball for eight seconds in the backcourt for an eight-second violation in honor of Kobe’s number 8 jersey, a number that he wore for the first 10 years of his Lakers tenure.
Trae Young, a rising star for the Atlanta Hawks, displayed his respect for Kobe by wearing a number 8 jersey at the beginning of the Jan. 26 Hawks-Wizards game. Another significant gesture was made by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who announced that the number 24 jersey would be retired by the Mavericks organization. The crying outpour of tributes and positive memories shared about Kobe following his death highlighted his undisputed legacy on and off the basketball court.
In his career, Kobe won five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. While Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) was the dominant force inside for the first three championships, as indicated by the number of NBA Finals MVPs won by Shaq, Kobe proved himself to be a formidable co-star alongside Shaq. When Shaq departed the team in 2004, Kobe took over as the alpha dog in search of a new legacy. Kobe became a ruthless scoring machine, highlighted by a remarkable 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. After the Lakers acquired the Spanish bigman Pau Gasol in 2008, the Lakers went back to the top of the NBA mountain with Kobe leading the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
The myriad of accolades that Kobe achieved in his career proved to be no accident due to his tireless work ethic and dedication to the game of basketball. There are countless stories where Kobe wouldn’t leave the gym until he hit a certain number of shots or where he practiced his shooting motion without a basketball. His “mamba mentality” inspired generations of basketball players, including many of whom are in the NBA today.
Without Kobe, the NBA would be nowhere near as popular or as global as the game has grown to be. Even across the world in places like China or the Philippines, Kobe has impacted the lives of millions. Although Kobe and Gigi are no longer here with us, their spirit and legacy will live on through others as they continue to inspire the next generation.