by Santino Torres / Staff Reporter
On Sunday, Jan. 26, the world was shocked by the news of the untimely passing of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and seven others who perished in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
In NBA games across the country, various teams made efforts to commemorate the late great basketball legend. In Denver, there was a moment of silence held in Bryant’s honor. The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs subsequently took an 8-second violation, and a shot clock violation in order to honor the two numbers Kobe wore in his career: eight and 24.
The Atlanta Hawks’Trae Young and the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker both took 24 shots in their respective games, with Young finishing with 45 points and Booker 36 — totaling 81 points, Bryant’s best point performance all-time in his career.
Overseas, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid both held moments of silence in their respective soccer games in honor of Bryant, with PSG’s fans even going so far as to display a banner bearing his likeness in-game. In addition, Neymar Jr. trained in a PSG jersey sporting Kobe Bryant’s name and No. 24. Antoine Griezmann, a French forward from Madrid’s other top-flight team, Atletico Madrid, trained in an actual L.A. Lakers jersey with Bryant’s name and No. 8 on display.
“He wanted everybody to be united when it came to sports,” said senior biology major, LaVada Talley. “He was about a global dynamic as far as everyone having a chance at the table. He was big on doing what he loved, and he loved basketball.”
Bryant’s story began when he was just a senior from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he became a McDonald’s All-American and High School Player of the Year by both Naismith and Gatorade. Fresh off a state championship in Pennsylvania, he was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets, who then traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac.
He would go on to win five NBA championships, being named Finals MVP for two of those titles. He would become an NBA All-Star 18 times, becoming an All-Star Game MVP for four of those appearances. He was a member of the All-NBA First Team 11 times and was also All-NBA Defensive First Team nine times. He was a scoring champion twice. In 2008, he finally won an MVP award after 12 years in the NBA. He is fourth all-time in scoring with 33,643 points, and his numbers 8 and 24 are retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. He has also achieved mainstream Hollywood acceptance when he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his “Dear Basketball.”
Some Roosevelt students said they were greatly influenced by the life and the legacy of Bryant. “The whole ‘Mamba Mentality,’ of being a beast out on the court but also being a beast in life made him the [greatest of all time]. He was everything,” Talley said.
“He was an important figure in everyone’s life,” said Brian Kern, a junior marketing major and basketball player at Roosevelt. “He portrayed hard work and dedication to your craft. To me, next to LeBron and Jordan, he was the next thing, with the same type of game.”
Roosevelt students even discussed their many favorite memories of Bryant’s career.
“His 81-point game, or his last game…” said Andrew Veon, senior forward on the Roosevelt men’s basketball team who dons No. 24 — the same number Bryant wore during the back end of his career. “I remember watching Game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals, there’s a ton of them.”
Talley’s favorite memories came after Bryant’s playing career where he began coaching his daughter, Gianna, and her basketball teams. “Watching him coach his daughter, Gigi, he was a big advocate for women’s sports and WNBA,” Talley said. “Watching him coach was even better than watching him play. They always asked him when he was going to have a boy toward his legacy and he was like ‘you know I got my daughter right here.’”
“A lot of people grew up idolizing Kobe and his work ethic,” Veon said. “The person he was off the court too played a big impact in a lot of people’s lives.”