Mamba Forever

Although RWU is a short drive to the home of the arch rival for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Boston Celtics, the effects of Kobe Bryant’s death still permeate throughout the region and a country as a whole. Photo courtesy of Drew Hart

Andrew Hart, Herald Reporter

Cocky. Arrogant. Selfish. Confident. Exhilarating. Greatness. Loyalty. All these words are thrown around when Kobe Bryant is being discussed. Whether you loved him or hated him, there is no denying the impact Bryant leaves on basketball and the sports world as a whole.


Bryant played 20 seasons in the NBA, all of them for the Los Angeles Lakers, after he chose to forgo college basketball and head straight to the pros from Lower Merion High School in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bryant was surrounded by basketball from a young age. His father, Joe Bryant, played in the NBA for eight seasons. He played four of those eight with the Philadelphia 76ers. 


Kobe was originally drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the famous 1996 NBA Draft. However, Bryant was traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac before he could even suit up in a Hornets uniform.


With the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal in free agency, Bryant and O’Neal were able to create one of the most dominant forces the game of basketball has ever seen. Bryant and O’Neal three-peated as NBA Finals champions from 2000-2002, something that hasn’t been done since. Bryant went on to win back to back championships in 2009-2010, along with the Finals MVP award both years. This time, he won without O’Neal, despite critics saying he would never be able to win a title without O’Neal’s help. 


Besides his five championships, Bryant leaves behind a list of accomplishments that could run throughout this entire edition of the Hawks’ Herald. To save paper though, here are just a few, according to Basketball Reference.

 

18 time All Star (a record which still stands today), 12 time All Defensive Team (second all time), two time scoring champion and one MVP (which is a whole different discussion).

 Not to mention, Bryant amassed 33,643 regular season points, good enough for fourth most in NBA history, along with his memorable 81 point performance (the second most ever scored in an NBA game) and his 60 point career finale game as a hobbled 37-year-old NBA veteran, along with two Olympic gold medals.  

Bryant’s career accomplishments do not do him justice for the person he was outside of basketball. An Academy Award winner, author, investor, intellect and advocate for the game of basketball around the world. A cultural icon, whether it is yelling “Kobe!” while shooting a crumpled up piece of paper into the trash, repping his shoes and jerseys, or scrolling through Kobe memes on social media. Most importantly though, a father, or a girl dad and a family man. Bryant leaves behind his wife Vanessa of 18 years, along with his other three daughters.


The special relationship Kobe and Gianna shared through basketball reached students on our Bristol campus as well.

 “It kind of reminds me a lot of me and my dad,” said senior Women’s Basketball Captain Sam Leone. “I grew up learning from my dad. He has coached me growing up in my town as well as AAU. He’s been a huge supporter of mine throughout my basketball journey, so I can relate a lot to Gianna and Kobe in that way.”

Bryant’s promotion of women’s basketball also transcended across the globe.

 “I think that’s awesome and means a lot, especially as a women’s basketball player myself… his message has a huge impact on all female players, coming from such a successful athlete himself,” Leone said.  

Of course Bryant had some lows. His sexual assault case in 2003 is without a doubt rock bottom. These lows also extended throughout his fractured relationship with his parents after they chose not to attend his wedding, along with their decision to auction off memorabilia throughout his high school and professional career without his permission.  


Not to mention, his various feuds with teammates, most notably Shaq, which caused a rift in their relationship until recently and affected the future of the league when the duo ceased in 2004. Yet, these feuds with teammates were almost always due to Bryant’s competitiveness and desire to win. It was done to bring the best out of his teammates and opponents. 


“I can’t think of another person or athlete that has ever had this much of an impact on the world,” said John Ah Kao, a freshman on the Men’s Basketball Team.

 “Kobe was this icon, obviously because he was an all time great at the game of basketball, but also because of his mindset and work ethic that everyone calls ‘mamba mentality.’ Even though he was the best during his time, he still worked like he was the last guy on the bench.”
 
Ah Kao wore 24 as his jersey number in high school because of Kobe. He was one of his favorite players, and he looked up to Bryant’s work ethic and “killer mentality,” as Ah Kao described it. 
 
Perhaps Charles Dickens summed it up best in his book “A Tale of Two Cities,”by writing, “I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” 

Kobe Bryant is and was a part of many lives, young and old, athlete or not. You may not have loved him, you may not have hated him, but you sure as hell have to respect the player and human he truly was. Rest in peace to one of the greatest to ever lace them up… the Black Mamba… Kobe Bryant. Rest in peace to Gianna Bryant, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan as well.