Remembering the Greatness of Kobe Bryant

Demetrios Turk

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` Five time NBA Champion, two time NBA Finals MVP, MVP award winner, fifteen time All-NBA team selected, eighteen time NBA All-Star, and most importantly, father of four, Kobe Bean Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26th.

 

His thirteen year old daughter, Gianna Marie-Onore Bryant was also among the nine reported dead in the crash. They were on their way to a travel basketball game when the helicopter went down.

 

 

 

Kobe inspired countless people to chase their dreams, and to be relentless in the pursuit of those dreams, as he always was on and off the court.

Kobe loved his family, just last week, a video of him teaching the nuances of the game to his daughter GiGi went viral. He loved to coach his daughter’s Mamba squad, and that’s even where he was on his way to yesterday.

 

Prayers go to his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and his three children he leaves behind, Natalia, Bianca, and Capri.

“It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you-or don’t. So don’t take it lightly.”

On June 26th, 1996 with the thirteenth pick the Charlotte Hornets Drafted Kobe, and then traded him to the Los angeles Lakers for bigman Vlade Divac.

 

Kobe embraced a bench role in his rookie season, and was selected to the All-NBA rookie team.

 

In Kobe’s second season, he went through a defining moment in his career. In game five of the 1997 Western Conference Semi-final round, Kobe “air-balled” `four clutch shots in the waning moments against the Utah Jazz.

“It was an early turning point for me in being able to deal with adversity, deal with public scrutiny and self doubt. AT 18 years old, it was gut check time.” Bryant said about the game.

 

In 2000, Kobe won his first Championship alongside Superstar Shaquille O’Neal. The Lakers beat the Pacers in six games, and Shaq won Finals MVP.

 

In 2001, Kobe and Shaq won their second ring together, beating the Iverson led Philadelphia 76ers in five games.

In 2002, the Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets for their third straight Championship.

 

The Lakers were winning, but there was a rift growing between the two brightest stars in Los Angeles.

Kobe was ready to be the star of the lakers, and was putting in the work to do so. The current star of the team, Shaq, was not putting in that same effort to the team in the eyes of Bryant, causing a rift.

 

Adding to this, in 2003 the Lakers lost to the eventual Champion San Antonio Spurs in the second round.

 

In the summer of 2004, Shaq requested a trade from the Lakers. He was dealt to the Miami Heat in exchange for forwards Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, and bigman Brian Grant.

 

In 2005, Kobe’s first season without Shaq, he came within twenty points of the most scored in a single game. On January 22nd, Kobe scored 81 points on 28-46 shots, including 7-13 from the three point line.

Despite averaging his career high in points with 35.4 a game, the Lakers missed the playoffs with a 45-37 record.

 

In 2006, the Lakers were defeated in five games by the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers missed the playoffs the next season, and were struggling after trading Shaq.

Before the 2007-2008 season, Kobe wasn’t happy with all the losing, and thus demanded a trade. A trade to the Detroit Pistons was all drawn up,before Kobe decided that he wanted to be a Laker for life.

He stayed with the Lakers instead of joining the 59-23 Pistons, and Chauency Billups, Rasheed and Ben Wallace, and Tayshawn Prince. This trade that almost was is one of the biggest “what if’s” in NBA history.

 

In 2008 there was a change. The first trade the Lakers made was trading Maurice Evans and under-acheiving forward Brian Cook for Trevor Ariza, who would break his foot in january, but return in May.

Then, in a blockbuster trade, the Lakers sent Kwame Brown, Javaris Critteron, Aaron Mckie and the draft rights to Marc Gasol, two first round picks, and cash considerations for Pau Gasol and a second round pick. This trade helped the Lakers extremely, as they went 22-5 with Gasol.

The Lakers would finish the season as the one seed in the West, and Kobe would be named the regular season MVP; and would beat the Nuggets, Jazz, and Spurs before losing to the Celtics in the NBA finals.

In 2009, the Lakers would win a franchise record 65 games, and would go on to defeat the Orlando Magic in five games in the NBA Finals, giving Kobe his first ring without Shaqueile O’Neal, and his first Finals MVP.

 

In 2010, the Lakers would avenge their 2008 finals loss to the Boston Celtics, beating them in seven games. This series secured Kobe’s fifth, and final championship in the NBA.

2013 would be the last season that the Kobe led the Lakers would make the playoffs, a year in which they were swept by the Spurs.

The Lakers tried to reload and shoot for another championship with Kobe, bringing in Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, and All-NBA Center Dwight Howard.

Nash would break his foot early in the season, and Howard never found his footing playing along the fierce Bryant.

During the 80th game of the 2013 season, there was a moment that personified who Kobe was.

On April 12th, 2013 Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the waning moments of a game against the Golden State Warriors. He felt at the back of his foot, and after a few moments on the ground, he was helped up, and he drilled both of his free throws on a torn achilles.

On the injury, at a Nike Summit a few months later Kobe said,

“When I first did it, right there, I was trying to feel if the tendon is there or if it’s gone. I realized it wasn’t there. I was literally trying to pull the tendon up, so hopefully I could walk and king of hobble through the last two and a half minutes and try to play.”

 

Kobe would return to the Lakers on December 8th, 2013, in a game in which the Lakers would lose to the Toronto Raptors. Kobe was never the same after the injury, and him being thirty-five at the time did him no favors.

 

On December 14th, 2014, Kobe would pass Michael Jordan in career points scored in NBA history with 32,985 points. Jordan was third on the list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Karl malone.

 

On April 13th, 2016, Kobe would play his final game in the NBA. The game took place in the famed Staples Center, and was against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers would win the game, 101-96. Kobe would play 42 minutes, and score 60 total points in his final game.

 

Off the court, Kobe would pour his time into his family, and endeavors into creativity, winning an Oscar for his animated short Dear Basketball. He was on ESPN+ exclusive show, Detail, in which he broke down the game in stunning fashion.

Kobe opened the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks in 2018, to train young athletes like his daughter GiGi. Often hosted here were camps and tournaments like the one they were to attend the day they passed away.

I assume that my reaction to the news was more than likely how most of us reacted: I got the notification on my phone, and thought it was a hoax for a while; another one of those celebrity deaths lies that circulate the internet. Then, when the news began to hit multiple sources, the dread and disbelief hit like an earthquake.

Kobe inspired all of us, to do better, to always want to be the best at whatever we do. In his death, we are provoked to reach out to our loved ones, those who we may have petty differences with, and to squash them. Life is too short, and if someone as seemingly omnipresent as Kobe could die, then we all could too.

Thank you Kobe, for your inspiration, for your resilience, for the “Mamba Mentality,” for you striving to be the best that you could be.

 

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.”