Remembering Kobe Bryant: How a Basketball Icon Touched Students’ Lives


Photo courtesy of New York Stock Exchange via AP.

Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant served as an inspiration for numerous NBA fans, including many Chamblee students.

Henry Diep, Staff Writer

On January 26, the entire world was rocked by the shocking news of the passing of internationally renowned basketball player and cultural icon Kobe Bryant in a tragic helicopter accident. The accident also took the life of his daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, along with seven other passengers: John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan.

Bryant, often regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was famous for his legendary work ethic and competitiveness, which he coined his “mamba mentality.” Over twenty seasons in the league, he was a five-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, one-time regular season MVP, eighteen-time All-Star, and was first team All-NBA eleven times and first team all-defense nine times, among many other accolades.

However, Bryant was more than just an athlete. He was a philanthropist and businessman and was just getting started on his post-basketball career before his life abruptly ended. In fact, Bryant became the first professional athlete to win an Oscar in 2018 when “Dear Basketball,” a short film that he wrote and narrated, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

More importantly, though, Bryant was a mentor, a husband, and a father of four daughters, one of which passed away alongside him. His peers described him as a family man. 

Bryant’s former teammate, hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal, reiterated this point, tweeting out, “Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter, Me’Arah.”

In fact, Bryant even stated in an interview that the reason why he uses a private helicopter to get around LA is to reserve more time for his family.

“Traffic started getting really, really bad, and I was sitting in traffic and wound up missing a school play […] I had to figure out a way to train and focus on the craft and still not compromise family time,” he said.

Bryant served as an inspiration to fans across the world and his death was felt across the community by students who grew up admiring and looking up to him. 

“I was in the middle of a [basketball] game and when they told me [the news]. I didn’t believe it until I [saw] it on Instagram, and all I could do was cry,” said junior Faith Brown, who plays on the girls’ varsity basketball team.

Bryant’s surprising and sudden death left many in shock, especially considering that just the day before, he had congratulated LeBron James for passing him at number three on the NBA’s all-time scoring leaderboards.

“When I first found out about the news, I was in complete shock and speechless overall, as I just thought about how much I used to watch his highlights and games when I was younger,” said senior Prateek Umashankar. “I thought of him not only as an idol in the sport of basketball but also [as] a major influence in the world, as he impacted both sports and today’s culture itself.”

Bryant had a profound effect on many students’ lives. For some, he had been the reason that they had gotten into basketball in the first place.

“Without Kobe, I probably wouldn’t have played basketball as a kid. He was my inspiration for playing basketball growing up, and because of him, I always pictured myself playing in a Lakers jersey,” said junior Muhamed Affo.

Brown shares this same sentiment.

“He was the one that made me want to play basketball because I always loved his passion for the game,” she said.

And while Bryant may not have been as personally important to some basketball fans as others, the impact of his death was still undeniably poignant.

“Personally, he wasn’t like a big inspiration to me to start playing basketball or anything, and he wasn’t exactly my favorite player […], but I don’t know. When he passed, it felt like I’d lost a family member,” said junior Nic Yen. “I think it was just because of the impact the NBA has had on me and even just seeing what [Kobe] had to say about hard work, it really left an imprint on me.”

In his passing, Bryant left behind a career full of notable, iconic moments, from game-winners to single-game scoring records to a three-peat in the Finals.

“[My favorite memory of Kobe] on court would definitely be when he scored 81 points against the Raptors or when he scored 60 points in his historic final game as a Laker,” said Umashankar. 

Yen, on the other hand, remembers a different clutch moment of Bryant’s in addition to his final game.

“I think my favorite Kobe moment is either the double game-winner against the Suns or just his final game,” said Yen, referring to the time Bryant hit two clutch shots in overtime and the fourth quarter of a 2006 playoff game against the Phoenix Suns.

Fans state that Bryant’s legacy carries on in all of the people he touched and inspired through his play and his legendary work ethic.

“Kobe is one of those athletes who will always amaze you with his freakish skill and athleticism,” said Umashankar. “He plays with that great tenacity [and] focus and has that mindset of ‘I will always outwork you’ and ‘you can’t guard me.’ He has that cockiness in him, but that truly brings out his greatness, his ‘mamba mentality.’ Kobe will always be considered in the top three players to ever play the game of basketball in my opinion.”

On and off the court, Bryant was a symbol of hard work and dedication for many.

“I think he’ll probably best be remembered as [someone who], whether or not you play basketball, […] would always lead you to believe that if you want something, you just have to work extremely hard for it. He’s somebody that inspires people to work really, really hard on whatever they’re doing,” said Affo.

Others maintain that Bryant will also be remembered as a mentor, with many of today’s NBA players growing up idolizing and watching Bryant play. He served as a teacher to them, helping them expand their game and grow as players.

“I think his legacy extends way beyond basketball,” said Yen. “He’s gonna go down as probably top ten greatest of all timein my opinion, top three, [or] top fivebut people are gonna remember him more for his hard work and the impact that he had on the modern game and how he helped young players develop themselves.”

Bryant, who coached his daughter’s basketball team and was a passionate supporter of the WNBA, was also a large voice and advocate for women’s basketball. Bryant was described as a “great voice and a champion of women’s athletics” by the University of Oregon’s women’s basketball coach, Kelly Graves. His impact on basketball extended past his competitiveness and perseverance.

“He changed the game and he thought that everybody was equal in basketballmen and women,” said Brown.

Bryant’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Gigi, was the one who pulled him back into basketball after his retirement. Bryant had previously stated that he wanted to step away from basketball after retirement, but he ended up stepping right back in to help cultivate Gigi’s love for the game and help her grow as a player, whether it was by taking her to games courtside to see her favorite players or becoming the coach of her team.

“It’s just such a loss that him and Gigi both passed because Gigi was going to grow up one day, and, I don’t know, it felt like she was going to dominate the WNBA, just based on the stories Kobe told about her,” said Yen. “It just felt like she was going to work really hard and have the same kind of drive as Kobe.”

The helicopter, which was headed for a basketball tournament before it crashed, was carrying Kobe, Gigi, two of her teammates, the parents of her teammates, another coach and the pilot.

“When I heard about his daughter and the others who died in the crash, I felt even more heartbroken,” said Umashankar. “Gigi was so young and talented at that age as she played basketball. What hurt me the most was that she wouldn’t be able to continue his legacy as a player, as her innocent life was taken tragically. I could tell how much Kobe loved her, as I would see clips of them going to NBA games and Kobe giving young Gigi advice the entire time.”

Kobe Bryant’s career and legacy extends beyond the hardwood. He had a profound impact on sports fans and non-sports fans alike and will be remembered for years to come for his “mamba mentality,” his passion for the game and the inspiration that he served as for others. The world mourns the loss of one of the most legendary athletes to grace the court as well as the lives of his young, full-of-potential daughter, her teammates and the others involved in the tragic accident.