Forever a legend

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When I woke up Sunday morning at 3 p.m. with a raging hangover, I opened my phone to a text from my sister that TMZ had broken the news that Kobe Bryant had died.

Refusing to believe the gossip news source, I saw that known NBA analyst Adrian Wojnarowski had confirmed – the basketball legend had died in a helicopter crash along with nine others.

As someone who started playing basketball at age nine, I was already devastated. Even as a Boston Celtics fan, rivals of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe was just one of the players you respected no matter what.

One of the most iconic performances in NBA history is when Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors. Kobe even dropped 60 points in his final game before retirement in April 2016.

Hours later, the news came out that another one of the victims in the crash was his daughter, Gianna. They were on their way to Thousand Oaks for one of her travel basketball tournaments. My heart was already aching; that news shattered it.

There are so many takeaways from their deaths, with the first being that basketball is more than a game.

Being an obsessed sports fan, many people don’t understand the passion behind each match. They don’t understand that at the end of the day these are real people who worked their whole lives to be the greatest in their sport and still have so much to give beyond their career.

They don’t understand that one player like Kobe can influence millions of people to start playing basketball, cheering for the Lakers or even wear number 24.

His stat lines and championships are part of history and changed the game of basketball. Kobe was one of the first to ever be part of the prep-to-pro era, being the incredible player that he was drafted out of high school.

Beyond the game, Kobe spent much of his retirement being a dad and a coach to Gianna.

He mentioned that he never cared to watch the NBA after retirement until his daughter became interested in the game – then he’d spend every night watching game film and breaking it down for her.

The news of both of them being gone is what was the dagger in my heart.

My dad is my absolute best friend, but more importantly he was my coach – in both life and in sport. The reason I have such an intense passion for sports and played them for 16 years was because of him.

I think of all the times he would push me twice as hard as any other player only because he saw my potential and how I could be so much better. As a 14-year-old I never saw it, but I do now.

My heart hurt knowing that Kobe’s love for the game became much stronger when he got to share it with someone he loved – by seeing her grow and improve as a player

As Kobe is a father of four; seeing him speak so highly of Gianna and how she was going to change the future of women’s basketball is admirable.

A father-daughter relationship is already precious, but when sharing a love of sports and fostering a relationship between a coach and player takes it that step further.

Kobe Bryant’s name was etched into the history books years ago for being a legend. The Mamba mentality – dubbed for Kobe’s nickname the Black Mamba – is something many players channel when they try to be the best. Hell, he’s the only player to have two numbers retired by an organization.

But Kobe’s death is bigger than sports because it affects everyone: Fathers, daughters, wives, teammates and fans. He affected millions as a player but became even more of an idol to the casual fan when his passion for basketball was as a coach and a father.

Forever a Laker, forever one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court. Most importantly, he is forever an incredible father who placed an importance on women’s sports because he saw millions of young girls like his own who loved the game as much as he did. We’ll miss you #24.

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