As people, we often take life for granted.  We lose sight of the little things in life that make it so great.  It is until we lose something or someone, that we can change our mindset about life itself.  On Sunday afternoon, we lost a legend, an icon, a champion, a husband, and a father in Kobe Bean Bryant.  Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas along with seven other people.  Kobe spent 20 unbelievable seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers where he was an 18-time All-Star, 5-time Champion, MVP (2008), and 2-time Scoring Champion.

Personally, I was one of Kobe Bryant’s biggest critics.  I never really fully appreciated or realized what he was doing for basketball and for that, I feel a large amount of shame and guilt.  I spent a lot of my time arguing with friends and family about what made Kobe not as great as other players and lost sight of the amazing things he accomplished in his legendary career.  But now, I put this dumb, selfish logic aside and appreciate the player and more importantly the person that Kobe Bryant was.  Although I critiqued the player, I always respected the person. 

From yelling “KOBE!” while tossing things in trash cans or witnessing his “Mamba Mentality” we will all remember Kobe as a transcendent superstar.  But maybe we should remember him more so as a great person, citizen, and a loving husband and father. People loved Kobe, truly adored him.  I never completely understood why or how he was so loved until he retired back in 2016 when we got to see more of Kobe Bryant the person.  After retirement, the Mamba’s impact on basketball did not go away.  Not even close.  Bryant opened the Mamba Sports Academy in 2016 where he would train young athletes as well as current NBA players.  He was obsessed with the game. His tireless work ethic inspired many people, and as much as I didn’t think so, including me.  Growing up, I would see #8 and #24 jerseys left and right which I thought was always unique being from South Dakota. He was an icon.  A true ambassador for the game we all love.  Looking back, Kobe was always a huge role model and hero for my generation.

Something I will always adore Kobe for was his love for his family.  He would absolutely rave about his daughters, especially his middle one, Gianna.  A few years back, Kobe went on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and talked about her drive to be great and wanting to carry on his legacy.  Bryant coached Gianna’s travel team and loved it. Because of Gianna, he became heavily involved with women’s basketball and the WNBA.  He saw a fire in her that he once saw in himself at that young age.

It still doesn’t seem real.  Kobe’s legend will continue to live on throughout the world.  The sadness in our hearts will not be easy to move on from.  As sports fans, we lost a big piece of us and our culture.  I really have never felt this affected by any kind of celebrity death. It’s just how big Kobe was.  Even if you weren’t his biggest fan, he affected you and made an impact on you.  Very few people can do that in the world. Whether you were rooting for him or against him, you always knew you were watching something special.  This tragic accident has taught me a lesson to appreciate these kinds of special people while they’re still here.  We give our deepest thoughts and condolences to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family as well as all of the families affected by this tragic accident.  Rest in peace, Kobe and Gianna Bryant and thank you for all you have done for this amazing game.