Kobe Bryant: A career to remember

The Journal's Assistant Sports Editor pays tribute to a beloved sports star

Kobe's legacy will live on long after his death.
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On Jan. 26, Kobe Bryant passed away in a California helicopter crash, which also claimed the lives of eight others, including Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, 13-year-old Gianna. Bryant leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and three other daughters. He also leaves behind a legacy that cannot be forgotten.

Drafted in 1996, Kobe Bryant became an L.A. Lakers legend for two decades and a basketball star for a lifetime. He was one of the most skillful and driven players, with a career that can only be described as legendary.

Bryant had arguably one of the most remarkable careers in the NBA. He was focused not only on winning, but on overcoming every challenge on the court. His career had a series of defining moments that made him the NBA star and household name he is today.

Bryant carved out his career with the Lakers, leading them to five NBA Championship titles, with the last one in 2010. Byrant’s defining moments led him to have an impact on many generations.

In 1996, Bryant made a move that was about to change the world of basketball. At 17 years old, a graduate of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, Bryant announced that he was skipping the college route. In Bryant’s words, he decided to “take his talents to the NBA.”

This marked his entry into the world of professional basketball, in a career that would soon blossom into a record-shattering passion.

In 2000, at the age of 21, Bryant won his first championship with the Lakers alongside former Lakers player, Shaquille O’Neal. The Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers in six games and took home their first championship title. The very next year, the Lakers defended their title as NBA champions, taking home another trophy after beating the Philadelphia 76ers. In Bryant’s second consecutive championship, his scoring average was 28.5. He would soon go on to win his first MVP award in the NBA All-Star game in February 2002. These achievements were baffling for a player so fresh to the professional sport, were only the beginning.

On Jan. 22, 2006, Kobe Bryant played one of the most iconic games of his career, when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. The Lakers won the game 122-104. After the game, Bryant said he couldn’t believe what he had accomplished, “not even in my dreams.”

In 2010, Bryant won his last championship with the Lakers. The Lakers won seven games against the Boston Celtics, leading them to their fifth NBA championship with Bryant at the helm. This would be Bryant’s last championship win.

Admittedly, Bryant came out of his career with one major scar on his record. In July 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault on a trip to Edwards, Colorado, where he had an encounter with a woman, who stated it was non-consensual. The charges were later dropped, and a further civil suit was settled out of court. After the case was dropped and the civil suit was settled, Bryant sent a letter of apology to the woman, acknowledging her side of the case. Few heroes have easy legacies to reconcile with, but that certainly doesn’t excuse his actions. Despite our heartbreak at Bryant’s passing, it is critical to remember all his past instead of glossing over the pain he caused.

After his retirement in 2017, Bryant released a short film entitled Dear Basketball, based on his letter to the Players’ Tribune announcing his retirement. Narrated by Bryant, the film describes his love for the sport and the hard work that led him to becoming a professional athlete and his undying dedication to basketball. Bryant narrates, “I never saw the end of the tunnel. I just saw myself running out of one.” The legendary short won Best Animated Short Film at the 2018 Oscars.

Kobe is, and will always remain one of the greatest NBA players of our time. As said in his letter to the Players’ Tribune, “No matter what I do next, I’ll always be that kid with the rolled-up socks, garbage can in the corner, 0.5 seconds left on the clock.”

Kobe, your legacy will live on in each of us.

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