At the age of 41, with clear signs that the career after retirement would at last rival what he did on the basketball court, Kobe Bean Bryant is gone.
He, along with his second daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, and seven others, died in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Southern California on Sunday morning. As the tributes poured in throughout Sunday, and continued thereafter, the rarefied status that he arrived at in life, as an athlete and generally, was given full clarity.
Many saw him as just the “Black Mamba”, that intensely determined and dangerous baller who could strike like lightning and devastate opponents/victims, much like the slithering creature he patterned his ferocity after on the court.
They knew of his court credentials, such as the five NBA championships; the incredible work ethic that resulted in him putting up 800 shots at a practice session; the rock-hard mindset that enabled him to work out with only his left hand because the other was out of service; the passion to win, which never allowed him to be satisfied with just competing; the 81 points in a game, bringing him closest to Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time single game record of 100; the 60 points he scored in his last game; the one who took the toughest shots ever, and made a good bit of them; and the four All-Star MVPs.
Many others, realizing that he had departed this earth, recognized and enunciated other splendid attributes. So many players were distraught upon hearing the news, because Kobe, it was, who would call them and give encouraging words when they were most needed, or extend congratulations for achievements.
In his post-playing days, Kobe was the exact opposite to when he was competing. He was not known to socialize after games, preferring to concentrate more on preparation for the next game, or take off by himself.
That led some players to criticize him for not having a lot of friends among his peers.
However, Kobe always moved to the beat of his own drum. He knew he would heighten his interaction with players once his playing days were over. That he did, as was expressed by scores of players. He took communication with his peers to a level far beyond that which was the case when the Mamba was exhibiting his brilliance on court.
His communication link went far outside of the NBA borders, actually throughout the world. Kobe became a world figure as a player and his connection with associates transcended the game, which made him famous.
Kobe evolved into a global icon. He became a figure of history in the film industry. His product “Dear Basketball” won him an academy award in the animated film category. He thus found himself with another group of world peers.
That’s why there was such an outpouring of tributes and grief, coming from all of the continents.
They knew Kobe.
They revered him.
They appreciated him.
They agonized over his death.
Of course, one in particular who felt the pain of losing one dearly loved was Michael Jordan, the player whose game was the model Kobe aimed to simulate. It has to be acknowledged that Kobe did not quite have a list of accomplishments equal to that of Jordan.
He was so good though, that he topped Jordan in several significant categories. Kobe bested Jordan in total career points (33,634-32,292); most points in a single game (81-69); most All-Star MVPs (4-3); and most All-Star selections (18-14). That’s not too shabby.
It is because of the aforementioned, and much more, that the names Kobe and Jordan are mentioned in the same conversation.
They are linked together forever.
They were both greatness personified.
Farewell, Mamba. Generations across the globe were enlightened and thrilled because you passed this way!
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