by Nick Hamilton (@NickHamiltonLA)
LOS ANGELES — Sunday was a day that the world remembered a global icon, one of the greatest basketball players to have dribbled a ball. A man who created a great life outside of basketball, an Oscar Award winner, entrepreneur, and most importantly a family man and a father. On August 23, Kobe Bryant would’ve turned 42 years old, but his life was cut short in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.
Although he is no longer with us physically, many will continue to allow his legacy to live on forever. From his late wife Vanessa Bryant, their children, his friends, family, and many fans will always acknowledge the greatness that was the Black Mamba. If you were fortunate enough to cover him from a media standpoint, befriend him, speak with him on occasion, or played against him, many knew how special of a human being Bryant was.
Of course we’ll have the debates on who’s better, Michael Jordan or current Laker Lebron James? But neither one of those two individuals will deny the authentic and exceptional talent that Bryant was. You truly can’t have an intelligent conversation without including Bryant somewhere in that G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) discussion.
Yes Bryant was hard on teammates that included Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and countless others. But when you expect nothing less than greatness, they’re times one must demand that in a leadership role. Every great person has acted in that way from Steve Jobs (Apple Computers founder), to Dr. Dre (Aftermath Entertainment, Beats By Dre), to Elon Musk (Space X), to Oprah Winfrey (HARPO), one thing all these people have in common with Bryant is they win and expect phenomenal results.
Not only was Bryant great on the basketball court as a member of the Lakers for twenty years, winning five championships and numerous individual accolades, but also made a difference in the streets of Los Angeles and surrounding communities. As famous and highly recognizable as Bryant was, he was never afraid to be amongst the people and be in communities to help bring some change. From taking on the homelessness issue in Los Angeles, to standing up for justice for Trevon Martin and his family speaking at Crenshaw High School alongside the late Nipsey Hussle in South Central L.A. Bryant has also made visits to the Boys & Girls Club on Vermont Avenue in South L.A., along with lending his efforts and support across Black and Latino communities.
When Eric Garner was murdered by NYPD officers, he was one of the NBA players who wore a shirt that displayed “I Can’t Breathe” showing support and desiring justice for the family of Garner.
After basketball, Bryant became a content creator on a mission to develop the best art and surround himself with like minded creators. He authored several books, created a podcast for children, and won an Oscar for “Dear Basketball“. A seven minute carefully constructed short on Bryant’s desire to be one of the greatest players to have lived. Bryant teamed up with former Disney animator Glen Keane to bring Bryant’s letter written to fans before his last NBA game to life. The animated feature was narrated and executive produced by Bryant, and scored by legendary music leader John Williams.
From the outstanding film score, to acute black and white sketches of detail, it was a priceless inside look on what was to come from Bryant’s company Granity Studios.
Bryant made sure that his family was always close to him, and he got the opportunity to train and coach his late daughter Gianna along with her team for the last couple of years. With so much promise of Gianna’s skills and following in her dad’s footsteps, many believed that she would be the elevation that WNBA continues to need. Bryant was an avid supporter of womens athletics as a whole. A great spokesperson to engage and help more people watch and become fans of women’s sports, especially the WNBA.
With a heart for kids, Bryant always made sure that young American athletes had the best opportunities to compete on a high level.
Who would’ve thought that the last time I would see and speak to Bryant would be at an event at the Banc of California Stadium home to LAFC. Bryant was a huge soccer fan, but a bigger supporter of helping and challenging kids to be the best they could be. Although Bryant didn’t know my name, he recognized my face, it was great seeing him being so enthusiastic about his second wind.
1996 was such a special year, Bryant was a part of one of the greatest NBA draft classes and a primal year in hip-hop, a genre he was also a huge fan of. A special person the City of Angels got a chance to witness his growth before our eyes. He was East Coast born but West Coast raised in every sense of the statement.
The future NBA Hall Of Famer was gone too soon, but never forgotten….Mamba Forever.