As a long-time sports fan, it’s nearly impossible to name a more influential ambassador for athletes, and specifically basketball players, than Kobe Bryant. Sunday, Jan. 24, 2020, stands as one of the most tragic days in sports history. A helicopter transporting Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others to the girls’ basketball game crashed into a hill outside of Calabasas, Calif. There were no survivors. The moment truly shocked the world. My thoughts are with those maintaining the legacy of everyone who passed in the wreck.
As the dust settles and we’ve had time to digest the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s death, now seems like the right time to reflect. It pains me to write this piece, but Kobe would want nothing more than to have his passion and work ethic showcased to the masses. Through the sorrow and introspection, I hope to highlight the tremendous impact Kobe Bryant had on society.
In his basketball career, Kobe finished with five championship rings, two NBA Finals MVP awards, one regular-season MVP award, 17 All-Star appearances, the 1997 Slam Dunk champion, 12 NBA All-Defensive team selections, two Olympic Gold Medals and an 81 point game, the second-most points ever scored in an NBA game. In his 19-year career, Kobe made 36 game-winning shots. His iconic clutch gene gave everyone growing up in our generation a chance to be the hero, even if it was just a paper ball into a trash can. “Kobe!”
Because of his impact and passion, many have called for a revision to the NBA logo. The current logo silhouette, NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, is not opposed to the idea. “If they [NBA] would want to change it, I wish they would. In many ways, I wish they would,” West said. A petition to change the logo to Kobe already has over 3 million signatures.
From a legislative sense, the wreck has brought to the forefront a discussion about the increase in safety standards for helicopters. It was found that the wreck could have possibly been avoided if the helicopter had a TAWS or Terrain Awareness and Warning System on board. The system warns the pilot if they are approaching dangerously low heights or any oncoming impedance. A petition is circulating that urges the FAA or Federal Aviation Authority to make TAWS a standard feature for all helicopters. That petition and the Kobe Bryant NBA logo petition can be found on change.org.
Kobe Bryant, on top of his accomplishments on the court, continued to inspire millions of people off the court. With the help of Nike, he became a global ambassador for the sport of basketball. Kobe was fluent in multiple languages and became an icon not only here in the States, but all over the world. His brand became synonymous with passion and hard work. Stories from his sphere of influence continually spoke of his incredible work ethic and conscientiousness. When Kobe left the game, his goal was to be more successful in the 20 years after the NBA. He often spent his free time reading, learning and preparing himself for this post-retirement life. In his four years of retirement, he held large investments in several companies, won an Oscar and inspired his daughters through sports. For more perspective on his winning mindset, please give a listen to “The Corp” podcast interview with Kobe Bryant. He won his Oscar for a short film he directed based off of his Players Tribune retirement letter, “Dear Basketball,” a piece I highly recommend reading. Kobe also said that on several occasions fans came up to him and said he needed to have a boy to carry on the tradition, and he would tell them that his daughters were his true legacy. He hoped to continue to push forward women’s athletics.
Kobe was also not afraid to talk about the mental challenges we all face. “I have self-doubt,” Kobe said, “I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I'm like, 'My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don't have it. I just want to chill.' We all have self-doubt. You don't deny it, but you also don't capitulate to it. You embrace it.” He encouraged individuals to welcome the challenges of daily life, and set a plan for progress.
Kobe recently said, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” This quote encapsulates the heart of Kobe’s legacy. He encouraged anyone and everyone to seek out their dreams. He always understood that the pathway to greatness takes many sacrifices, and in numerous personal stories I have heard over the past couple of weeks, Kobe always challenged them on how they plan to achieve their goals. In the spirit of Kobe, go out and seek greatness. #MambaMentality