The Impact of the Black Mamba

By Sydney Gibbs

It’s been two days and it still doesn’t feel real. I just keep hoping that a tweet will pop up on my timeline and that it will be from Kobe Bryant. One can only dream.

When I saw the notification pop up on my computer, my heart stopped. I was covering the Georgia women’s basketball game at the time and I turned to the journalist beside me and I asked “Is this real? It has to be a joke.” He said it was real. From that moment on I couldn’t focus. I had no idea what was happening in the game because the only thing on my mind was Kobe and his family. 

When the game ended, I went to the post-game press conference with the coaches and the players — they were all heartbroken and in complete shock. One of the greatest minds in the game of basketball and a man who did so much for women’s basketball was gone. 

After the press conference, I went straight to my car. I was overcome with so much emotion that I could barely think. The moment I got into the front seat, tears started falling and I couldn’t get it to stop. I was completely numb.

I never personally met Kobe but his death hit me like a ton of bricks. He’s the type of person you think would live forever. He was supposed to be invincible. Never once in a million years did I think I would be typing this article to remember the legacy and the greatness that was Kobe Bryant. 

I was a fan of Kobe growing up but he wasn’t my favorite player. I was more of an Allen Iverson and LeBron James type of girl. But everytime I would turn on the TV, Kobe was in the spotlight. His lethal fadeaway move, and the way he would whistle past long bodies in the post was constantly in highlight reels on sportscenter. And I always watched.

The night he retired back in 2016,  I didn’t expect myself to be overwhelmed with such sadness. That would be my last time seeing Bryant in a Lakers uniform. I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning watching the game even though I had to be up four hours later for school. I fell asleep in all my classes but it was definitely worth it. His legendary 60-point performance will always be ingrained in my memory and so will all his other remarkable games. 

He continued to show the world that his basketball intellect was one of a kind. At night, I would stay up for hours picking and understanding the mind of Kobe Bryant as I watched his show “Detail” on ESPN+. I could listen to him talk basketball forever. 

His basketball prowess was unmatched and his uncompromising work ethic was always something I loved and looked up to. I’m not going to lie, I grew envious of Bryant everytime June rolled around and he would be holding up his third, fourth or fifth NBA championship trophy instead of my beloved New York Knicks. However, he deserved it because of all the blood, sweat and tears he shed to get to that point. It was inspiring.

The unwavering mamba mentality not only applied to athletes on the basketball court but it applied to everyone who had that thirst to succeed. Bryant was great, his skill and talent were immeasurable, but he never stopped working to get better. Great wasn’t good enough and it never should be. 

He was a disruptive force straight out of high school and the beauty of his game only grew. When he was drafted in 1996, the NBA was blessed and they didn’t even know it yet. 

I’m not an athlete but Kobe changed my life. 

He helped me realize what it truly means to be dedicated. He overcame a lot of adversity and suffered through countless vitriolic attacks on his playing ability and character but he didn’t let that hold him back. It only made him better. He’s one of the reasons I aspire to be a sports journalist. 

Basketball is the sport I grew to love and the one I cherished the most because of all the athletes who were more than just the number they wore on their jerseys. Kobe was more than just number 8 and 24. He was a charismatic, intelligent, fierce, incredibly inquisitive and driven individual who impacted so many lives in various ways. 

He didn’t die being an athlete, he died being a father. His beautiful and talented middle daughter, Gianna Bryant died alongside him in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of seven others. They were on their way to Mamba Academy for a basketball game that his daughter and Alyssa Altobelli were supposed to play in. 

After he retired, all he wanted to do was be there for his family. He wanted to be involved and that tragically ended up taking his life. 

Gianna “GiGi” Bryant had so much potential. I remember watching some of her highlight reels and thinking to my myself that “she’s going to play in the WNBA one day.” She was a mini Kobe and basically mastered his contested fadeaway jumper. She had so much life to live — both her and Alyssa. Unfortunately, it was taken away from them too soon.

Kobe was a superhero for young boys but he was the same thing to young girls. Because of his daughters, he became a spokesman for women’s basketball at both the collegiate and professional level. There would always be pictures or headlines of him sitting courtside with his daughter GiGi watching a UConn game, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, or at a WNBA game supporting Candace Parker or Breanna Stewart. 

It wasn’t that long ago that he was saying WNBA players like Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, and Elena Delle Donne could play alongside NBA players. Bryant was trying to get people to look at the women’s basketball in a different light. He genuinely was a fan of the WNBA and that sent a powerful message.

Bryant was the epitome of basketball dominance and a tangible figure of hard work. He instilled inspiration and motivation into anyone, male or female, who picked up a basketball. His brilliance transcends basketball and his spirit will forever live on — both on and off the court. 

His death continues to be incomprehensible. That heartbreaking notification punctured the world of sports. It’s difficult for me to fathom why bad things happen to good people. My mind starts to wonder “what if…,” but that only makes things worse. 

My admiration for Kobe Bryant is difficult to quantify. The limitless passion and love he showed on the basketball court inspires me to have that same attitude in every facet of my life. Words will never be able to measure up to how much he’ll be missed. This one stings immensely, and it will for awhile. 

 

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