NBA legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

NT students mourn Bryant’s death and reflect on his legacy



Bryant with 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also passed in the crash

The global community was shaken to its core on the morning of Jan. 26 when former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Casabanas, CA.

The tragic death of the 41-year- old Bryant prompted a series of impromptu tributes by the sports community.

Halftime of the NFL’s Pro Bowl (which kicked off just minutes after news of Bryant’s death broke) featured a moment of silence in his honor, several NBA teams took ceremonial 24-second shot clock violations in the ensuing days, and millions of fans took to social media to grieve.

“Once it was confirmed, it was hard to process that such an amazing sports icon and my personal role model was gone,” said junior Tyler Hardin.

“Finding out that his daughter Gigi and seven others were with him made it almost impossible to comprehend.”

In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Bryant compiled a staggering list of individual accomplishments: 18 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, the 2008 NBA MVP, and two NBA Finals MVPs to go along with his five NBA championships. The self-proclaimed “Black Mamba” defined basketball in the time between the dominant eras of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, helping to extend the global reach of both the NBA and fledgling WNBA in the process.

“I was devastated by the news. Kobe was a big part of why I play basketball and my work ethic,” said junior Will Geis.

“He was actually the first jersey that I got when I was a kid, and my dad always told me about the Mamba Mentality, which I continue to use in my basketball game.”

While Bryant’s accolades and on-court dominance will surely earn him a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame this August, his greatest legacy will be left in the work ethic he made famous.

The success that Bryant enjoyed using his “Mamba Mentality” led to widespread subscription to his methods, creating a generation of athletes and sports fans who have embraced the hard work and relentless pursuit of perfection needed to overcome adversity and achieve success.

“His competitiveness and his drive to be the best is something that is ingrained in me whether I’m on or off the [football] field,” said Hardin.

“The passion and emotion he played with to be a winner will forever stick with me throughout my athletic career.”

Bryant’s willingness to push his physical and mental limits not only earned him a vast collection of hardware that includes an Oscar award for his short film Dear Basketball, but also the admiration of even his harshest critics.

Although most current New Trier students were not old enough to witness Bryant’s athletic peak nor his most notable accomplishments, his performance during the Lakers’ late-season playoff push in 2013 gave them a lasting memory to associate with his toughness and tenacity.

“My favorite on-court memory of Kobe would have to be the free throws that he made after tearing his Achilles [against the Warriors in 2013],” said senior Brian Joseph.

“That was insane to me, and it really showed true dedication to his craft and his willingness to persevere through adversity.”

While Bryant’s on-court legacy will be defined by his indisputable excellence, his personal legacy is far more complicated.

Bryant was accused of sexual assault by an employee at a resort in Eagle, CO during the summer of 2003, and although the charges were eventually dismissed 14 months later, the legal proceedings, which revealed an adulterous relationship between him and the employee, left a permanent stain on his reputation.

However, Bryant’s familial reputation was partly repaired in retirement as he dedicated himself to being a loyal and supportive father to his four daughters, notably providing athletic and moral guidance to his eldest daughter Natalia and the late Gianna.

“Based on the news reports that I’ve seen and also watching him in the past, Kobe has been a wonderful family man [in retirement],” said Joseph.

“He has been a very dedicated father, which I really respect, and it’s something I’d like to emulate when I’m older.”

Although Bryant will no longer be around to spread his wisdom, his impact on both the game of basketball and the lives of the millions of people who idolized him will ensure that he is not forgotten.

Between the extra practices by athletes, the pushes through personal adversity by Mamba Mentality disciples, and even the imitations of his fade-away when disposing of garbage, there will be numerous daily reminders of what made Kobe Bryant special.

“Kobe Bryant will carry an immortal legacy. He was overwhelmingly talented, but was also an extreme influence mentally to everyone involved in sports,” said senior Cat Flood.

“He was always the best possible version of himself, and I know personally that it makes me want to do the same.”