Tribute to Kobe Bryant: His legacy will never die

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(Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – The world mourns. Basketball star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident on Sunday, 26 January 2020, along with his daughter, Gianna Maria Bryant, and seven others. Yes, the world, and not just the world of basketball, mourns. Kobe’s popularity has transcended the world of this sport. He inspired all: even people outside the world of sports, even those in the arts, wept over this loss. In the Grammy Awards, before the show, Kobe loomed large over a ceremony held at the Staples Center in which he played for the Los Angeles Lakers for over 20 years. “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” said returning host Alicia Keys to a room in which Bryant’s retired jersey numbers shone brightly overhead. “We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.” 

The great author Paulo Coelho also mourns Kobe’s loss. He cancelled the planned publication of a children’s book he was creating in collaboration with Kobe. “You were more than a great player, dear Kobe Bryant. I learned a lot by interacting with you,” said Coelho as quoted by The Guardian. “Will delete the draft right now, this book has lost its reason for being.” 

Bryant and Coelho held mutual admiration for each other. Bryant loved The Alchemist, the Brazilian writer’s masterpiece. The novelist shared an exchange he had with Bryant last August, when the basketball player, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, suggested writing a book together. “Any time,” responded Coelho. 

He is now deluged with pleas from fans to finish the book as a tribute to Bryant. He told the Associated Press that Bryant had wanted his book to show underprivileged children they could overcome adversity through sport. Through his multimedia company Granity Studios, Bryant worked with writers to publish a children’s book series featuring sport and magic. “What I had was an idea and I knew where I wanted the characters to go,” Bryant told USA Today about his book projects last week. “I know where they should start, and I know where they should end by the time this series is over … I had an idea, but I knew that [co-writers] could make it a thousand times better. So it was just kind of sitting back, sharing these ideas and just figuring it out.” 

Coelho told AP that Bryant was “always very concerned about making a book that was a positive example for children, especially those coming from humble beginnings”. 

“It went from there. Little by little we were going ahead,” he said. “I saw him enough times to assure he had much more than sports on his mind; it wasn’t all about competition. His tragic death has shown already how he was important to the world – not only to the United States. We will discuss his legacy for many years, much beyond sport.” Someday, added Coelho, he may write “about things I learned from Kobe and how much of a larger-than-life person he was. But the children’s book does not make sense anymore.” 

NBA greatly honors him with a moment of silence. All basketball gyms emptied the shot clock for a 24 second and 8 second violation in memory, as “24” and “8” were Kobe’s numbers when he fought for the LA Lakers. 

Indonesian Basketball League will do the same on the first day of the third series held at Mahaka Square, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, on Friday 31 January. “Like our counterpart in the NBA, we will empty out the first 24 seconds and 8 seconds. Kobe is an inspiration for all basketballers in the world, including in Indonesia,” said IBL President Director Junas Miradiarsyah. “Kobe has strictly taught the basketball philosophy of hard work, discipline, and mutual respect. As a professional basketball league in Indonesia, we also express our respect and appreciation to the player who inspired all basketball lovers.” 

Kobe was not just a great athlete in the field, he also inspires others outside it. Mere hours before his death, he went to church and prayed. He visited Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, California early Sunday morning ahead of the 7 a.m. mass, according to Father Steve Sallot. “We shook hands, I saw that he had blessed himself because there was a little holy water on his forehead,” Sallot told CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL. He had visited the prayer chapel and was on his way out when he briefly spoke with Sallot. “I was coming in the same door as he was going out, we called that the backhand of grace,” the priest said, adding that they chatted about how someday Bryant wanted to receive the Catholic sacrament of confirmation. 

Bryant, 41, and his family were regulars at the Newport Beach church, praying along with hundreds of other parishioners during mass and never trying to attract attention to themselves. He was quiet about his faith but “certainly a man of faith,” Sallot recalled. 

In a Facebook post on Monday, Bishop Timothy Freyer of the Diocese of Orange described Bryant as a “committed Catholic who loved his family and loved his faith. A longtime Orange County resident and parishioner in our Diocese, Kobe would frequently attend Mass and sit in the back of the church so that his presence would not distract people from focusing on Christ’s Presence,” the bishop said in the post. 

Hours later, Bryant, his daughter Gianna, 13, and six other passengers died when a helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. The pilot was also killed. They were heading to a basketball game in Thousand Oaks, where the former NBA player was expected to coach and his daughter was expected to play. 

It was Gigi, as Gianna’s father called her, who returned his passion for basketball. Gigi has great talent and mentality in basketball. It is not wrong to call her a future WNBA star. 

Since retiring as a five-time NBA champion, Bryant became something of an unofficial ambassador to the women’s side of the game. He showed support through attending college and WNBA events, training with players, breaking down film on his own ESPN show, and more. That came in tandem with the rise of Gigi, who at 13 years old was starting to make a name for herself within the sport. We were destined to spend the next few years marveling at her highlights, like this fadeaway that reminded us of her dad. 

In the WNBA, Bryant’s reach stretched further than even we knew. From workout sessions with his daughter and WNBA stars Candace Parker, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson to giving Liz Cambage tips on how to break out from double teams, Kobe’s involvement with women’s hoops was widespread. And the relationships were symbiotic. 

Bryant’s impact around the WNBA and NCAA was recognized by athletes all over the world following his death, and well before it. Kobe and Gigi were the center of attention at the All-Star Game in Las Vegas last summer, meeting with fans and players at the WNBA’s biggest spotlight event. Outside the bubble of the women playing the sport, Bryant’s voice was making waves for prospective fans, too. When he spoke, fans listened, players listened, and cameras listened. As a celebrity of his stature, what he said made news, and everyone knew it. 

Good bye, Kobe. Your legacy will never die. The legend will be remembered always and forever. (Rp)