Jason Han, sports reporter
There are almost no comparisons, in the basketball world, to what happened Sunday. And the basketball community has rarely ever had to mourn like it has to now. I am the son of a Lakers fan but not one myself. Still, I know of a few other people who left an indelible mark on culture, basketball or otherwise, like Kobe. He was one of the few people who, by force of will, transcended his craft and became immortal.
For many people, this immortality will mean what happened Sunday will never feel real. And I’m still not sure it does. I go about my day, and every now and again, I remember that someone I always knew and thought would always be there is no longer here, and that sobers me for a moment. For many people, Kobe lived primarily in our memories and stories we told and were told about him, and he will continue that way forever.
Luke Mullin, assistant sports editor
Whenever I toss something into the trash can or take stepback jumpers, I’ve got to yell “Kobe!” It’s just something I have to do. I’d hardly consider myself an NBA fan, but few players have drawn me to the sport of basketball like Kobe has. His stepback jumpers were things of beauty, and they inspired far too many similar attempts from middle-school me.
One of the things I have always appreciated about Kobe is that he was a cold-blooded killer on the court. I mean, who could forget the time he didn’t flinch at a ball being jabbed in his face, or the time he bet $500,000 that he’d make a free throw in crunch time? He had that ice in his veins and a work ethic which made him determined to dominate any opponent in his way. So, thank you Kobe for gifting the world your “Mamba mentality,” something which inspires me to this very day.
Drake Keeler, assistant sports editor
When I first heard the news of Kobe’s death, it didn’t feel real, and to be honest, it still doesn’t. I didn’t even get into basketball until around 2012, when Kobe was starting the final years of his career. Despite this, I still have plenty of memories. I was a Chicago Bulls fan growing up, and a kid who lived across the street from me was a Lakers fan and loved Kobe. We always played basketball together, playing one-on-one as if it was a Lakers-Bulls playoff series. I also remember watching Kobe’s final game in my basement and being in awe as he put up 60 points and pushed the Lakers to a win.
The hard thing about untimely deaths like these is that they close the book on stories that aren’t nearly finished. This was especially true for Kobe. After his retirement, I was inspired by his dedication to his wife and his four daughters, including Gianna, who also died. He made real efforts to promote women’s basketball and was a leader for many others. Seeing the players, coaches and everyone else react to the news throughout that day really drove home how big his impact was, and it’s hard to fathom the fact that he won’t be around to continue to make that impact.
Kobe Bryant was truly larger than life, and he will never be forgotten.
Thomas Codo, sports reporter
On Saturday, I was looking through Instagram and saw a post from a man who will forever go down as one of the greatest icons of all time. It was a picture of him with LeBron James. The caption said, “On to #2 King James! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.” I smiled when I saw it, and I gave it a heart. Now, I look at again in a different light. The post has over 7 million likes, and I can’t imagine it stopping there.
Growing up, my dad always said that learning about the greats is something that everyone should do. Why? Because each and every one of them changed the world in their own way. Whether it’s an athlete like Lamar Jackson or a writer like Stan Lee, every great has impacted life in a way that can never be undone. What happened Sunday reminded me of that because I, along with the rest of the world, saw Kobe Bryant as one of the greats. Of course, he was more than just an icon on the basketball court. He was a teammate, a friend, a brother, a coach, a husband and a father.
I may be from Chicago, but I respected Kobe as much as I respected Michael Jordan. To me, anyone who can do what they do deserves to be seen as one of the greats. Of course, it’s not every day a player will become so iconic people shout his name when they take a shot. Yet, what happened Sunday also changed the world. No one can truly understand how life works, and why things happen. No one could have foreseen this, and when it happened, no one could have done anything. Now, all that’s left is confusion and emptiness.
Emptiness, knowing that a great has died. Knowing that a father and husband has died. A man who spent over two decades changing the world through basketball. Whether playing or coaching his daughter, he was changing the world. Kobe Bryant will forever be one of the greats. He is The Black Mamba and neither he nor Gianna will ever be forgotten.
Christian Horn, sports reporter
For several years, I wasn’t a big fan of the Lakers or Kobe Bryant during his playing days. I respected his talent for the game of basketball, but I didn’t like him much. As the years went by, though, that opinion changed. I realized that more than just being a good basketball player, he was a great ambassador for the game as a whole, for both men and women.
I didn’t watch Bryant’s final NBA game because my high school golf team had a tournament the next morning. I’ll never forget that the entire time we were on the way to the tournament, all we did was talk about Bryant’s performance and watch highlights from his 60-point sendoff.
Once Bryant did retire, my appreciation for him grew even further. Notably, I saw the way he talked about his children, and it was obvious how much love and pride he had for them. When I heard about his death on Sunday, the first thing that came to mind was a quote from The Sandlot: “Remember, kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
Bryant was indisputably a basketball legend in every sense of the word. Bryant’s work as an ambassador for the sport and his role as a mentor for the game’s next generation of players ensures his legacy will carry on, even as some memories from his Hall-of-Fame career fade. Outside of NBA circles, Bryant’s impact on the game will still be felt with every crumpled-up paper ball flung toward a wastebasket as the launcher lets out a mighty “Kobe!” chant.
May the souls of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and everyone who perished in that helicopter crash rest in peace, and may their friends and families find comfort and healing in this difficult time.
Landon Wirt, sports reporter
This feels like a bad dream.
Kobe Bean Bryant was not supposed to be taken from us this early, not when he had so much more to give. It sounds cliche, but I truly believe that the world stood still when news of his passing was first announced. I didn’t think it was real. They couldn’t have meant Kobe, right? It felt like he was just on social media congratulating LeBron James for surpassing him on the all-time scoring list.
My heart dropped with each passing update on Sunday. I got to witness the pinnacle and end of a legendary career growing up, although I must say that I wasn’t his biggest fan while he donned the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a villain, an ice-cold assassin on the court — but he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He loved being hated. I could go on and on about who he was as a player, but I want to hit on an aspect of Kobe’s life that is more important than his career as one of the best NBA players.
Bryant was just getting started with life after basketball. He was an Academy Award winner. He was an ambassador of the game for men, but more importantly, for women. Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna bonded over the game. He took her to NBA games to watch some of her heroes in person. He took her to women’s college basketball games at UConn and Oregon and guided Gianna as her coach toward her dream of making the WNBA. That’s what they were doing on the day they both died. It was just a dad and his daughter going to a basketball game. Now, they’re both gone.
Kobe Bryant. Gianna Bryant. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Alyssa Altobelli. Christina Mauser. Sarah Chester. Payton Chester. Ara Zobayan. Remember their names. This is a dark, dark day for basketball.
Maddie Peterson, sports reporter
When the news struck on Sunday about the unexpected death of Kobe, it stopped the nation in its tracks. Most of us grew up watching Kobe play. His talent and love for the game is evident.
However, I think his character is the most remarkable thing about him. As a woman, something that particularly grabbed my attention when discussing Kobe is his constant support of women’s athletics. He was known for supporting the WNBA more than most athletes by attending games and bringing up the next generation of players. He empowered, believed in and supported his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and is a model for what a father should be. Gianna was determined to carry on Kobe’s legacy, and it’s truly heartbreaking that she won’t get the chance.
It’s so easy to live as if you’re guaranteed the next day. However, this is a prime example that life can be taken from us at any point, and sometimes, the best are the ones taken too soon. I think it’s important to memorialize Kobe by living every day as if it’s your last and putting your all into everything you do, just as Kobe did.
Scottie Spinazola, sports reporter
When I first heard the news, as most people probably did, I checked all of the social media apps that I had. The only thing I could come across was from TMZ, so I thought hopefully it was fake because it just didn’t sound real. It was like the internet knew what so many others and I were thinking, and then a wave of updates started coming in. I just sat back in disbelief because I have been looking up to him as a role model, and just as a sports fan, it didn’t seem like it would happen.
From all of the shock and sadness that was going through my body, I thought back to what Kobe really meant to me. Starting with his confidence, some used to say that he was being a ball hog, but to me, it showed that if you put in the work and have that confidence in yourself, you would be the only person you trust to get the job done. Even though I didn’t play basketball in high school, I took his mindset into whatever I did, and if there was a chance for me to work harder at something then I would because at the end of the day, I wanted to have that confidence that I could do all I could if I was asked to.
Kobe was an amazing basketball player, and you can’t argue that, but one thing that stood out to me recently about him is that he was an amazing father. Since I was young, other than being in the NFL, I wanted to be a dad because my dad was my biggest role model. Seeing him at games with his family and more specifically, his daughters, teaching them everything about the game just how he learned it made him such an amazing all-around person.
No one is perfect, but you have your whole life to make the most of it, and to see the legacy that just one person can leave on this earth is remarkable. Kobe is one of those people that even with his death, we will be talking about him for eternity.
Matt Hardesty, sports reporter
I feel like I was one of the few people to not have much of a positive or negative opinion on Kobe Bryant. I have a lot of respect for what he did as a player and as a competitor and think his type is a dying breed.
I also truly believe that Kobe was the last universally respected NBA superstar. Social media gives us so much content for NBA players nowadays that we see way too much of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s lives, and it is easy to find reasons to dislike them. Kobe’s prime came before Twitter blew up, and because of that, he mainly garners respect from fans nowadays.
I found it impressive what he managed to do in his retirement, starting a successful media company and winning an Oscar with his first short film. It’s insane to think that it took Kobe one shot to win something actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep had to try countless times over multiple decades to win.
Lastly, I will remember Kobe for how he mentored the current generation of the NBA. He may have been a selfish competitor during his playing days, but I respect the hell out of him for trying to help players like Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo raise their games to his level of intensity.