For 20 years, Kobe Bryant dominated the basketball world as a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Sadly, Bryant, who retired only three years ago, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26. 41-year-old Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed en route to a travel basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy.
Bryant, who was often described as one of the best players that the NBA has ever seen, was a five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist and currently sits No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. But Bryant’s impact goes far beyond the hardwood. Off the court, he was an Oscar-winner, businessman, author, and, husband and father to his wife Vanessa and his four young daughters.
Bryant’s impact can be felt throughout the campus of Emory University.
Freshman Ryan Spann from Los Angeles grew up as a Lakers fan and watched Bryant play all the time. Spann said he will always carry Bryant’s dedication to the sport with him.
“[Bryant’s] work ethic, attitude and consistency on and off the court … resonates with a lot of people not only back home, but around the world,” Spann said.
He noted that even his friends from home, who are fans of the in-town Los Angeles Clippers, still appreciate Bryant just as much as he does.
“Even if you weren’t a Lakers fan, he was someone everyone admired in Los Angeles,” Spann said.
The news of Bryant’s passing resulted in strong emotions from both Emory’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Men’s basketball Head Coach Jason Zimmerman spoke about how Bryant’s maturity from a young age put him in a place to become the successful leader and player whom he will be remembered as.
“He stood for those same things when he was 18 and 19 and 20, but he didn’t have that experience yet,” Zimmerman said. “When he would say things like he was a veteran — and he wasn’t yet — he was set up for making an impact on the world.”
Although Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016, Zimmerman said he knew that the future Hall of Famer wasn’t done making a difference.
“I think he was getting ready to make an impact on the world even greater, and that’s what’s sad about it,” Zimmerman said. “His knowledge, experience and the way he articulated things late in his career and [in] his post-NBA career [were] special. That’s what makes it sad. You just miss some of that.”
Zimmerman’s players have used Bryant as a role model in their preparation both on and off the court. Junior guard Matthew Schner was inspired by Bryant’s tireless work motivation. Schner believes that many young athletes will continue to look up to Bryant’s tireless displays of commitment and passion.
“Bryant was a fierce competitor who refused to settle for anything less than being one of the best players to ever play the game,” Schner said. “Kobe’s legacy is a reminder to find your passion and pour everything you have into being the very best at your craft. The pain, late nights and feelings of defeat are all part of the process of striving for greatness.”
This commitment to excellence spawned one of the most recognizable nicknames in sports: Black Mamba. He nicknamed himself Black Mamba after a character from cult classic film “Kill Bill,” in which the namesake assassin executes murders using the eponymous venomous snake. Kobe earned this nickname with his legendary work ethic and his masterful balance of aggression and artistry. Bryant said that the Mamba Mentality “means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself.”
Many basketball players take heart in this mentality and try to incorporate it into their game. Junior guard Pierre Coffey is one of such players. In Coffey’s eyes, Bryant was more like a movie character who always saved the day.
“Before there was Black Panther, the first superhero I fell in love with was the Black Mamba,” Coffey said. “If we all attack our passions with the Mamba Mentality, we will substantially improve the world around us the same way Kobe improved the world while he was here.”
Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, one of Kobe’s four daughters, who also died in the tragic accident, was also considered a great player.Her father told ESPN reporter Elle Duncan that his daughter was a “monster” and “a beast.”
“She’s better than I was [at basketball] at her age. She’s got it,” Bryant said.
Gigi dreamed of attending the University of Connecticut (UConn) to play college basketball before going on to play in the WNBA.
Emory women’s head basketball coach Misha Jackson noted the Bryants’ impact on the game of women’s basketball.
“We’re devastated to hear of his daughter’s passing as well,” she said. “[The Bryants] were doing a lot with women’s basketball, and Kobe Bryant was a big supporter in bringing media attention to the women’s game, whether it’s the WNBA or UConn women’s basketball. Bringing his celebrity to our game was really important. It’s not just a loss for basketball, but I do think what he was doing for the community made him a great person.”
Bryant is remembered for his commitment to greatness. His hard work — on and off the court — led him to be successful in more than just basketball. His legacy will carry on for generations to come not only at Emory, but all around the world, and his name will soon be forever etched in the Hall of Fame.