Basketball as a whole experienced an almost unthinkable loss when a five-time NBA champion for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant, and eight others tragically passed away in a helicopter crash. The event occurred as Bryant was on his way to a basketball game with his daughter, Gianna Bryant, who also lost her life in the accident. As the news about this tragedy spread across the internet, the initial reaction was understandably disbelief.
It’s hard to think about walking the Earth when Bryant is not. More specifically, it’s odd to think about Bryant in relation to having lost him. Bryant was never a loser of any measure. He made 18 all-star appearances, won a multitude of championships, and his will to succeed landed him in the professional basketball world at the mere age of 17 years old – right out of high school.
Bryant was emblematic of a drive, a particular work ethic which many refer to as mamba mentality. Kobe was known for being exceedingly intense when he was engaged in battles on the court – not because he was bad-spirited, but because he held so much passion for a game he’d loved as a child. We have the incredible privilege of having been able to witness the greatness that Bryant now symbolizes, which gives birth to the unique weight his namesake now evokes.
Balancing growing up and an NBA career created meaning for Bryant beyond just being a successful basketball player. As the news of his death broke, NBA games were being played or were soon to begin. Many players broke into tears at the knowledge of his passing, and Kyrie Irving, a player for the Brooklyn Nets, walked off the court and left the game upon learning of Bryant’s passing. Bryant was known to be an extremely close mentor for Irving throughout his career.
The loss of Bryant is not just a loss for those who knew him but also the basketball community as a whole. There have been many talks of tributes being erected to honor Bryant, something that will naturally occur in time, but even more creative tributes have already been done. Teams have voluntarily taken penalties during games, holding the ball longer than the 24-second possession clock and staying in the backcourt area for eight seconds, to show respect to the two jersey numbers Bryant donned throughout his career.
The biggest or most involved argument for a tribute for Kobe has seen fans calling for the NBA to change the silhouette included in the logo for the league from former Lakers player Jerry West to Bryant. At this point, it is nothing more than hopes and dreams from fans of Bryant arguing for this change, and the NBA has announced no plans to actually change the logo. But it is worth mentioning how synonymous the game of basketball has become with Bryant’s namesake – so much so that there are already 2 million signatures on a petition to change the logo.
This event will mark the NBA for years to come, as the absence of Bryant is not something that will be easily overlooked. Moving forward, we can expect more full accounts of remembrance for the basketball legend. May he rest in peace.