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Features

Kobe Bryant : A Legacy On and Off the Court

Jan 28, 2020

Kobe Bryant : A Legacy On and Off the Court

WORDS: NOAH PHAM

Illustration: Adam Villacin

If Gotham had Batman, Metropolis with Superman, Los Angeles was Kobe Bryant. He was our hero in the City of Angels.  You couldn’t pass two blocks without seeing a jersey or mural down virtually any sidewalk. You could channel his energy when you’d throw the number 24 or 8 on your back. It was almost every kid’s superhero cape while hooping at the park. He was the one we could count on to close a game 7, to play through any injury, and perform with pure finesse on the court. He was a cultural iconoclast inside and out of the realm of Basketball. Kobe defined and exceeded what persistence, grit, and hard work was to us. The past 48 hours in Los Angeles, along with the rest of the world, have been covered in this cloud of sadness and tragedy. There’s no other way to put it.  It truly feels like we’ve lost family.

As a 90’s kid born in Southern California, purple and gold are in my veins. The Lakers are in my DNA as it carries with many Angelenos alike.  Witnessing the Shaq & Kobe era dominate the league was my time’s Jordan, Kareem, and Johnson era. He was our superhero. Watching nearly every game as a family meant just as much to us as Christmas.  7:30 PM tip-offs couldn’t come any sooner. My mom would be livid when my brother would jump from his seat mid-meal to yell at the TV when Kobe would posterize a defender. We circled our dinners around basketball. It was our escape at the time. 20 years of watching greatness unwrap in your hometown gave us the possibility that you can make anything happen within your given foundation.   It gave us aspirations to dream bigger and push ourselves as much as Kobe did across the hardwood.  

 

I never lost track of what was going on with Kobe and the Lakers.  I can still replay vignettes of 4th quarters, buzzer beaters, and playoff games to my moments in life. Like the 2008 Laker’s loss in the finals was the month of my first heartbreak. Watching Kobe drain his high-flying 3 point game-winner over D-Wade in 2009 was a game that all of my best friends were watching in my bedroom, where we all immediately tweeted about it seconds after.  How Toy Story 3 came out the same week as game 7 of the 2010 Finals . Kobe’s retirement game was held on my 22nd birthday. His turnaround jumper was a shot I practiced every time I was on the court. There are so many memories that connect my childhood with Kobe and the sheer excitement that he brought to so many of us. I’ve never felt more of a visceral experience watching the Black Mamba perform with every fade-away shot and fast break.  

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Illustration: Eric Yahnker

Kobe’s drive and mentality cannot be compared to anyone else.  The inspiration he gave to others from his determination and ethic is a lifestyle that we all wish to aspire to.  5 rings, 18 All Star appearances, 2 Olympic gold medals, and an 81 point career high. The list goes on.   A year after his retirement, just when you thought the Mamba did it all, he pulled off an Oscar win for his animated short “Dear Basketball”.  It seems he just got off to the races after his last season. Kobe carried the mentality towards his entrepreneurship, film, books, and even a children’s podcast. It just proves to show that hard work will reflect your bearings.  

He impacted more than the world of basketball.  Kobe was a cultural icon and hero. Beloved in most parts of the world.  The name “Kobe” can almost be recognized anywhere. It’s the phrase that’s coined when you’re shooting the crumpled receipt into the wastebin across the room.  His legacy has brought multiple hooks and even songs written about him, let alone the time he stepped into the booth and recorded some tracks during the early 2000s.  

As I pass by the 10 freeway to and from my office, there’s still a haze of somber that drifts along the streets I drive across. The Intercontinental Hotel illuminates in purple and gold with “24” shining atop the city. The Staples Center’s LCD screen displaying Kobe’s portrait over the crawling traffic, like it’s the bat-signal calling for him in our time of distress. But he can’t be here to save our town this time. Mamba forever.