Remembering Kobe Bryant’s legacy

(News4usonline) – Kobe Bryant represented the best in us. He had unparalleled drive. He had ambition. His style of basketball was part grace, part determination. There was not a game where basketball fans ever felt cheated out of their money when they came to see him.

That’s because he gave and left everything to the sport that loved him back. Kobe was our superhero. He was one of us. And though he is no longer among us, his presence is still being felt to this day.

A younger generation of basketball players tries to emulate his game. Murals across Los Angeles and the Southland pay homage to the man sometimes referred to as the “Black Mamba.” 

In 2021, Kobe was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Five NBA titles and countless highlight-reel, jaw-dropping plays later that spanned 20 years, earned Kobe those credentials.

And when you think about his Hall of Fame career, what was it that made him so special, not only as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers but also as the face of LA?      

There are a lot of reasons why Kobe deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. There is no question that Kobe is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Before Kobe called it quits and retired after dropping 60 points on the Utah Jazz in his final game, the numbers spoke for themselves.

Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant with his former coach Phil Jackson at Shaquille O’Neal’s statute ceremony in front of STAPLES Center in 2017. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

He was an 18-time All-Star. He was a two-time Olympian and was named twice as the NBA Finals MVP. Kobe was a slam dunk champion in 1997. Kobe has even had the numbers that he wore-8 & 24-retired from ever being worn again. That in itself should tell you just how rare of a player Kobe was.  

He deserved to go into the Hall of Fame because each one of the five NBA championships he won told their own story. The first three titles he won were through the dynamic partnership he formed on the court with center Shaquille O’Neal.

All those down-to-the-wire battles with the Sacramento Kings are still memorable. And who can forget about the alley-oop pass Kobe fed O’Neal for a thunderous dunk that brought the rafters down inside Staples Center as the duo collected their first championship together against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.    

After O’Neal’s departure from the Lakers, Kobe went out and got two more titles, therefore further carving out his legendary status as a basketball icon. But there was a lot more to Kobe than basketball. His influence was felt globally. He was one of the most influential human beings ever.

Saying goodbye to the Black Mamba. Kobe Bryant got a send-off from the STAPLES Center crowd before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Los Angeles Clippers on April 6, 2016. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Mentioning his name should be done so with the utmost respect. From his days in high school to the pros, Kobe seemed to make every moment count. He didn’t waste time. When Kobe was in high school he was a standout wing player.

He took his game to the next level when he jumped past playing basketball in college to hoop in the NBA. In two decades, Kobe went from prep phenom to a Top 5 player of all-time in NBA history. Getting to the Hall of Fame was the icing on the cake. Was there any doubt that Kobe should be a Hall of Famer?  I think not.   

When he scored 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors back in 2006, Kobe scored the most points in Lakers history and tallied the second-most points ever in an NBA game. Only the 100 points that Wilt Chamberlain scored in 1962 can be mentioned ahead of Kobe’s magical evening.

What made what Kobe achieved more special was the fact his team trailed the Raptors by double-digits early in the second half. So, this was not a game where Kobe tried to pad the stat sheets. He was trying to help his team win the game. The Lakers ended up walking away with a 122-104 win against the Raptors.

That was definitely a Hall of Fame memory. When the induction ceremony took place, the Hall of Fame event was going to be emotional one way or another. Whether Kobe was going to be added to the Hall of Famer list or not, it was seemed almost surreal that Kobe would not be around for his greatest basketball moment.

Fans memorializing Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant in a moving tribute in front of Staples Center. Bryant, Gianna Bryant as well as seven others perished in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

After all, after Michael Jordan, Kobe was the biggest name in basketball. So it was very sad to even comprehend that Kobe and eight other people, including his daughter, Gianna, would perish in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. It was indeed a heartbreaking day for the city of Los Angeles and the basketball community.

We’re still reeling from that devastating sequence that literally shook us.     

The 15th of May will forever be one of the biggest days for Lakers fans as it represents the actual day that Kobe officially joined other NBA legends as a Hall of Famer. Even though he is physically gone, the spirit of Kobe hovers among us.

It was absolutely devastating not to hear Kobe talk or see him receive the biggest honor in basketball that he richly deserves. I believe that a lot of people really wanted to see Kobe wearing his Hall of Fame jacket. It was an almost empty feeling not seeing Kobe share the stage with Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

From 1996 to 2016, Kobe wowed us. For 20 years, Kobe provided us with sustained greatness. Five years after he called it a career, Kobe was enshrined as an integral part of the rich history of the NBA. He was fabulous. What he did on the basketball court was beyond legendary.                   

What he did off the court proved Kobe to be human. He was vigilant in helping the homeless, especially youths living on the streets. He had the heart to make other people’s lives better. One of the other difficulties we can recount from that day was seeing Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, accept the Hall of Fame honor on behalf of her late husband.   

Mrs. Bryant was incredible as was Jordan as they spoke reverently about Kobe. But this was Kobe’s day. And rightly so, he was fittingly honored for his contributions to the NBA.