Kobe’s Cultural Legacy

You’ll always remember the moment you heard the news. It happens whenever someone transcendent passes away. It happened with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, any former U.S. president, or anyone else who has a larger-than-life influence on the world and its culture. The same is true of the shocking news that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Kobe’s legacy on the NBA and basketball courts across the globe is unquestionable. The current generation of NBA players grew up watching him play, learning from his grit and his famous “Mamba Mentality,” and dreaming of being even half the player he was. But Kobe meant more than that.

You see, Kobe Bryant wasn’t just a basketball player. He was a filmmaker, a philanthropist, a champion of women’s sports, and, most importantly, a father. He also was one of those people who you’d listen to and then realize that he was wise beyond his years. Every bit of wisdom that he ever gave to the world now resonates even stronger because of his tragic death.

Obviously, everyone he was close to, as well as the entire basketball community, is shaken up. Hell, I’m shaken up. Commentator Mike Breen told an amazing story about how significant Kobe was. He said that, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he took a taxi. The driver asked him if he knew Kobe Bryant, after seeing his USA Basketball jacket. Once Breen said yes, the driver pulled over and began sobbing. Breen said that the power of the moment was so great, because just meeting someone who knew Kobe, not even the man himself, was so significant to this man who lived on the other side of the planet. That encapsulates what Kobe meant to everyone.

However, it was his involvement in women’s sports that I hope carries on. His daughter, Gigi, was a basketball player and played exactly like him. Same jump shot, same dribble moves, same intensity. She was supposed to carry on his legacy. And Kobe was going to make sure that the WNBA was fully ready for someone of her talents. And it all stemmed from his philosophy that “if you can play, you can play,” meaning that it doesn’t matter your gender, race, color or creed. If you can ball out, then you belong in the spotlight.

I’ll miss Kobe dearly. For his wisdom. For his talent. For his never-ending quest to inspire every young kid to achieve their dreams and to embrace Mamba Mentality, no matter what they do.

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