People around the world have been in a state of shock since news broke that legendary basketball superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna tragically passed away yesterday from a helicopter crash in California. Whether or not you’re an NBA fan, you’ve likely heard of the unparalleled skill and success of the Black Mamba, a player who is often called one of the greatest of all time. However, his achievements extend far beyond the four lines of a basketball court. In honor of the eternal impact the Los Angeles Lakers star had during his 41 years of life and will continue to have even in memory, we pay tribute to some of the most powerful moments in his career that will forever remain his awe-inspiring, multifaceted legacy.
Choosing to forego a university team to enter the 1996 NBA draft, Bryant joined the Lakers and became the youngest All-Star starter in history at the age of 19 during his second season with the team. Since the start of the century, he was an All-Star for 16 consecutive years and earned a record-breaking four MVP awards during All-Star games — the most in NBA history. His illustrious record also includes five NBA Championships, an NBA MVP accolade, and scoring a career-high 81 points in a single game during his 20 years in professional basketball with the Californian team. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … but he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
On this date in 2013, Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles … and he still made the free throws. pic.twitter.com/4qVLOQJcgO
— ESPN (@espn) April 13, 2018
After sustaining a season-ending injury of a torn Achilles tendon during a nail-bitingly close game between the Golden State Warriors, Bryant elected to take his two free throws—and scored both—before leaving the court for an unforgettable ‘nothing but net’ moment.
Not only is Bryant renowned for his athleticism in the US but also the world, earning an iconic two gold medals for men’s basketball with Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Academy Award winner
After retiring from playing sports in 2016, Bryant pursued his love of basketball through a different outlet: film. Awakening a creative side to him that many were unaware of, Bryant wrote and narrated a hand-drawn animated short called Dear Basketball inspired by the letter he wrote announcing his retirement that went on to win many accolades, including an Emmy and Academy Award. “I feel better than winning the championship,” Bryant told reporters after his Oscar win. “I swear. Growing up as a kid, I dreamt of winning championships and worked really hard. But then to have something like this come out of left field. I heard a lot of people tell me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I want to be a writer and a storyteller. “I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute.’ I got that a lot. To be here right now and have a sense of validation, this is crazy.”
Not only a nickname, but the Black Mamba is also Bryant’s competitive alter-ego he crafted to help compartmentalize his thoughts and keep his focus on the game while on the court, channeling any pent-up emotions into sport. “I had to organize things. So I created the ‘Black Mamba’,” explained Bryant once. “So Kobe has to deal with these issues, all the personal challenges. The Black Mamba steps on the court and does what he does. I’m destroying everybody that steps on the court.” This philosophy became known as the “Mamba Mentality” and the star athlete published an autobiography called The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” describing his approach in detail for others with the same drive and instinct to achieve their goals.
As a co-founder of a venture capital firm as well as a standalone investor, Bryant has a lengthy portfolio of successful investments in technology and sports-related ventures among others, including Fortnite creator Epic Games, skincare brand Art of Sports, and sports drink Body Armor.
Training next generation of athletes
Although the journey first began with the Mamba League, a youth basketball league created in partnership with Nike that allowed hundreds of aspiring athletes to play for free, Bryant later branched into the Mamba Sports Academy, “a holistic training approach to young athletes and help them reach their full potential,” wrote Bryant on Instagram for various sports and ages. His daughter, Gianna, was a member of one of the Mamba basketball teams.
Life-lessons through sports
Bryant’s passion for storytelling continued after his 2018 Oscar win. Under multimedia company Granity Studios, Bryant created scripted podcasts, young adult book series, and other innovative ways to share stories centered around sports to teach younger generations valuable life lessons and foster an everlasting sense of joy for the world to which he dedicated his life.