During a tribute to Kobe Bryant at Staples Center on Jan. 31, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook, and LeBron James close their eyes. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Opinion: Kobe Bryant’s legacy on and off the court

Shock rippled throughout the world when Kobe Bryant, one of the most respected and recognized NBA figures of all time, was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna on Jan. 26, the L.A. Times reported.

It’s undeniable that Bryant left a huge impact in the world. The news of his death stunned the nation, and reactions were immediate. Hours after the crash, grieving fans wore their Lakers jerseys and gathered around Staples Center in memoriam with yellow and purple flowers, candles, and murals inscribed with messages surrounded the sports arena in a vigil to mourn his passing. Over 3 million people signed a petition for the NBA to change their logo to Bryant’s silhouette.

At the Grammy awards held in Staples Center that same night, artists paid tribute to his memory, and lights shined on his Lakers jersey throughout the awards show. Talk show hosts, including Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Ellen DeGeneres emotionally recalled their moments shared with the Lakers legend.

“He was so big, it was almost like he was a fictional character,” Kimmel spoke of Bryant. “He was a real-life superhero with a costume and everything, walking amongst us.”

Bryant was undoubtedly one of the basketball greats. Starting from the humble age of 18, Bryant left high school and jumped straight into the world of professional basketball, and his career rocketed from there. For the next 20 years, Bryant went on to play shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Widely considered one of the best basketball players of all time, Bryant was an NBA legend with the statistics to support his status. Throughout his remarkable 20-year-career, Bryant earned five NBA championships, 18 All-Star titles, two Final MVP’s, two Olympic Gold Medals, 15 All-NBA teams, and the list goes on.

Bryant’s statistics and wins as a basketball player isn’t the only defining reason, however, for the legacy he left behind.

To many of us, he served as a symbol for hard work and perseverance, inspiring millions of his fans and many of the NBA players and generations that grew up watching him. Ambitious and competitive, Bryant proved the vast distances he could reach no matter the starting point. He established his goals of striving for the best and battled to achieve them despite whatever obstacles, as infamously seen through his determination to step back into the court even through injuries such as torn ligaments or tendons through the years.

His achievements and accomplishments made him a real-life superhero, an example of drive and willpower that plenty still try to follow. During his career, Bryant even nicknamed himself the “Black Mamba” to differentiate himself from other players.

Even in retirement, Bryant established himself as a leader, opening the Mamba Sports Academy, a training facility dedicated to training and empowering young athletes. He further made a name for himself in 2017, where he reminisced on his love of the sport with the short animated film, “Dear Basketball,” which won him an Academy Award the following year.

More than just sports, Bryant was also a hero at home. Teammates and colleagues affirmed that Bryant was a caring parent to his four daughters. He prioritized the time with his family so much that he often traveled by helicopter to attend his children’s events quickly and avoid traffic.

On Jan. 29, Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, broke the media silence and addressed the situation through a heartfelt Instagram post of her, her husband, and their four children paired with an emotional caption.

“[Kobe and Gianna] were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon,” Vanessa Bryant wrote in her post. “I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way.”

Basketball was only part of what Kobe Bryant stood for. He served as an inspiration for generations of players to follow his example and chase their ambitions. He was a giant amongst men — a role model of strength, determination, and hard work that leaves, for many of us, a legacy that’ll surely be carried on even after his passing.

In August 2020, Kobe Bryant is expected to be posthumously inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.