Ward: Rest in peace, Kobe
Jimmy Ward | Monday, January 27, 2020
Former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant passed away Sunday at age 41 along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash. This hits close to home for me. I’ve never been a Lakers fan, but growing up in the heart of Indianapolis, I always felt a deep connection to the game of basketball.
I am writing this just after hearing the news break for the first time, and I would be lying if I said no tears were shed. What Bryant contributed to the game of basketball, I doubt I will ever see in my lifetime again. Sure LeBron James is great and all, but Bryant was just a different breed.
When kids that love basketball — heck, when any kid who loves a sport — is asked who their role models in the sporting world are, about nine out of 10 will mention Kobe’s name. We have all heard the stories of his work ethic: first one in the gym and last one out.
Bryant’s Lakers beat out my Pacers in the 2000 NBA Finals where Kobe won his first of many championship rings. I can’t say I remember this series; I was too young. But the state of Indiana would remember Bryant, and as he paved his way throughout the league, Kobe Bryant became a household name around the globe — a name that no one would forget.
Kids from the gymnasium to the cafeteria were shouting, “KOBE!” as they lobbed basketballs towards the hoop or as they threw away their scraps from lunch. Kobe redefined what it means to be a baller.
Once Bryant’s days on the hardwood were behind him, he continued to contribute to the game like none other who had come before him through his show “Detail” on ESPN+, coaching his daughter’s basketball team and giving his take on news around the league. After Bryant had dominated the league on the court, he revolutionized the way the game was being perceived across the world.
Let’s not forget what Bryant did outside of the states as well. With an enormous following in China, Bryant made the trip to Beijing for the Olympics in 2008. Realizing what kind of influence he had not only in his homeland but across the seas as well, Bryant set up the Kobe Bryant China Fund not just to strengthen ties between the two countries but to raise money for education, sports and culture programs for children from China and the United States. Bryant was a man ahead of his time.
One could say Bryant’s career was plagued with controversy, from his disagreements with Shaquille O’Neal to his quarrels with Phil Jackson and even his criminal allegations. But Bryant’s rise from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, to NBA stardom is one basketball fans and sport fans in general will never forget.
We will never see a player like Kobe Bryant again. So as the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest to ever play the game, I would like to offer thanks to Kobe.
Thank you, Kobe Bryant, for sharing your passion for basketball with the world, and thank you for inspiring young children from nations far and wide to be engaged in one of mankind’s greatest inventions: sports. All you have done for the game will live on, far, far after you have gone.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.