A true legend and a true competitor, Kobe Bryant was among the most prolific superstars in the sport of basketball.
A week ago, fans from around the world struggled to process that the 41 year old legend and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, had been taken away from this world in a tragic helicopter crash. Far too soon, at that.
Growing up as a basketball fan, this one hurt a lot. You have to be as iconic as Kobe Bryant to get namechecked on such a simple and playful act of throwing a paper ball into a trash can. Kobe has become a role model for athletes and sports enthusiasts like myself. Even though he is not with us anymore, and so the other passengers, we will never forget their legacy and they will be immortalized forever.
“I texted Kobe to see if he hit me back,” said Ice Cube, a performer and close friend of Kobe Bryant. “. I wasn’t worried immediately because it’s Kobe, he will always hit me back,”
Kobe Bryant, for fans and foes of the NBA, was a pop culture icon on par with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Tupac, and Kurt Cobain. Like theirs, his passing will be marked in time forever. We will always remember where we were, what we were doing, and how hearing those painful words made us feel.
His performance on the court dazzled fans for years. His competitiveness and work ethic was admired by many, he donned the phrase “Mamba Mentality”; meaning to work harder than what your heart can give. In other words, to be be the first person to show up to work, and perfecting on the smallest details to become the ultimate “go-getter”. Many athletes followed this phrase to evolve their approach towards their respective sport; just as Kobe did throughout his career.
A week later, it all feels unreal.
“I feel like I’m in a bad dream,” said Dwyane Wade who was mentored by Bryant when he played the majority of his career for the Miami Heat, “But the sad thing is that I’m not waking up.”
Kobe, however, is remembered for more than his talents on the court. In fact, some of his greatest accomplishments happened off the court.
Along with Kobe and Gianna, we also recognize the other seven passengers.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter who has been flying Bryant and his family for years. “Pilot Kurt Deetz, who worked at Island Express helicopter company with Zobayan, said he considered Zobayan a friend and a trustworthy pilot. Zobayan’s neighbor Robert Sapia said Zobayan loved his job and would show him photos of celebrity passengers, including Bryant.”(CNN)
Payton Chester and Sarah Chester, a mother and daughter duo that were affiliated with Gigi Bryant’s basketball team.
Christina Mauser, an assistant basketball coach at a private school in Orange County, California.
John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, and Alyssa Altobelli who also died in this tragic helicopter accident. Gianna and Alyssa were teammates in Kobe’s “Mamba Sports Academy”.
Kobe’s passing unsettled both longtime fans and those who knew very little of his athletic prowess. His passing reminds us that life is so fragile, even for those whose impact seems to be infinite.
Jeff Dominguez is the communications and marketing director for the UB Post.