On Sunday, NBA legend Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash in Southern California. The passing of the Lakers icon and five-time NBA champion is a death that is and will be felt far and wide. Bryant was an astonishing and occasionally controversial basketball player whose stardom transcended the sport. Below, The Daily Californian’s sports writers muse on their memories of Kobe Bryant and his career.
Josh Yuen: Before there was Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, there was Monta Ellis. I’m a lifelong Golden State Warriors fan, and remember the heartbreaking losses just as much (if not more) than the three championships from this past decade. Kobe Bryant was the ultimate nightmare for the Warriors, and the best competitor I can possibly name on a basketball court. When I cheered on Monta late in the few close games that the Warriors were in against the Lakers, I cheered harder than ever because I knew he was battling the best.
Tom Aizenberg: Kobe Bryant is the reason I got into basketball. When I moved to the States in 2007, he was the best player in the league and I could only watch in awe as he rose to prominence, winning back-to-back titles before his career ended in 2016. I remember crying on my bed while watching his final game. I remember wishing I had the opportunity to watch Kobe just one more time. Although I never met him, I’ll never forget the impact Kobe Bryant left on me.
Kabir Rao: Growing up near Los Angeles, I never understood the Lakers hype until I saw Kobe Bryant continue to battle, even when down 39 to his Boston rivals in the 2008 NBA Finals. From that moment on, I couldn’t watch anyone else. The ultimate competitor, the Black Mamba showed me the meaning of work ethic. Not only did my favorite athlete make me pick up a basketball, he inspired me to watch sports, changing my life in the process. I would not be who I am without Kobe. I’m so glad that I can say that.
Emily Ohman: As a Salt Lake City native, the Utah Jazz has always been my family’s team — as one of the state’s only professional sports teams, the Jazz have an incredibly loyal fanbase, and my family comprises just a small percentage of that following. I’ll never forget the night that my family and friends, all lifelong Jazz devotees, crowded around the TV watching the Lakers take on the Jazz and cheered on Kobe as he sank bucket after bucket to earn his astronomical 60 points in his final NBA game. LA’s win from behind was celebrated by all of us as we sat in utter awe of Kobe’s performance, and his poise following the victory is something that he exuded on and off the court in seemingly every moment of his life.
Ethan Moutes: I’m an unfaithful basketball fan: I remember liking the Celtics following their NBA Finals victory in 2008, hopping on the Clippers’ bandwagon during the Lob City era and briefly rooting for the Thunder. Every time the Lakers faced one of “my teams,” I felt a sinking feeling — rooting against Kobe was decidedly not fun. He was cunning and explosive, and always seemed capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. When I heard the news on Sunday afternoon, it was a different kind of sinking feeling. Kobe Bryant was a transcendent figure with far more to offer as a father, husband and teacher. A life lived heroically, a life cut short.
Jasper Kenzo Sundeen: As a kid from LA, there was something different about this. I was never a Lakers fan, heck, I was never a big basketball fan — but Bryant was a part of the fabric of the city in a way few people are. He’s been around as long as I’ve been alive, a constant and controversial character due to various allegations, a piece of Los Angeles that was always there, and now he’s not. I remember being a kid, bouncing around the sun-drenched black top and throwing up shots with “Kobe” on my lips. I grew up in a city that belonged to Kobe Bryant and I’ll return to a city that will never forget him.
Rest in peace, Kobe.