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The Iconic Legacy of Kobe Bryant

The "Black Mamba" showed us why he was a once in a lifetime human being, on and off the court.

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Sunday, January 26, 2020, will forever be etched in history as one of the most tragic days in sports and in pop culture history. The entire world was in complete shock when news broke that one of the NBA's greatest ambassadors unexpectedly passed away.

 

On Jan. 26, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant were amongst the nine people who perished in a tragic helicopter accident. Bryant and the other eight passengers were en route to Gianna's basketball game. During this time it's only fitting that we remember Bryant's impact as one of the sport's most idolized figures—showing the world how to win and how to dominate this game called life one day at a time.

A career that spanned two decades, Kobe redefined how the game was played and etched his name in hoops history as arguably the greatest to ever lace up a pair of basketball sneakers.

 

"The Black Mamba" finished his career fourth on the all-time scoring list with 33,643 points. What made Kobe a "larger-than-life" figure was the way he paid attention to detail and dominated the game one play at a time. Modeling his craft on Michael Jordan, Kobe exhibited what it takes to be the best to the world—by utilizing his signature "Mamba Mentality." Domination was Bryant's thing and his performance proved it.

Historical Feats

Kobe Wins The 1997 Slam Dunk Contest As A Rookie

The weekend of February 9, 1997, can be marked as "the arrival" of the league's newest superstar. All-Star Weekend in Cleveland turned out to be a performance for the ages as a young Kobe put on a show. Right after setting a new scoring record in the "Rookie Challenge" by dropping 31 points, Kobe followed up with an insane, eye-popping performance in the Slam Dunk contest that featured some of the game's most established high flyers. Bryant showed America why Jerry West was a genius General Manager in trading for him (he had been drafted by the Charlotte Hornets) as he showcased an array of insane dunks.

 

What made people a believer was when he successfully completed the (at the time) rare "eastbay-funk-between-the-legs-while-in-midair" dunk. Kobe won his first and only Slam Dunk title and America was introduced to a superstar in the making from the city of "Brotherly Love."

First NBA All-Star Game Appearance

This marked the birth of a new era. The emergence of a new superstar in the making as Bryant made history and became the youngest NBA All-Star Game starter in history. He matched up with his idol, Michael Jordan and gave him his money's worth. Although MJ walked home with the game's MVP award, the hoops world knew that Kobe had arrived and was here to stay for a very long time. 

A Dynasty (Lakers 3-Peat)

By acquiring Shaquille O'Neal to provide a dominant presence in the paint and hiring hoops mastermind Phil Jackson to facilitate, the Lakers were in a position to be a force to be reckoned with. Jackson utilized his signature "triangle offense" with Shaq and Kobe which led to three straight championships. Kobe's game elevated to superstar status as he was able to finally capture his first-ever NBA All-Star Game MVP in his hometown of Philly despite being boo'ed. Kobe used this as ammo to take his game to another level as he was able to make 15 more All-Star appearances while winning the midseason classic's MVP award three more times. 

Kobe Scores 81 Points

The game that solidified Bryant's legacy as an all-time great happened on January 22, 2006, against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant lit up the stat line in a competitive game for a sold-out crowd in the Staples Center. He scored 81 points en route to a 122-104 win over the Raptors. His 81-point game is the second-highest in-game scoring performance in NBA history. In addition, he broke the Lakers' franchise in-game scoring record previously held by Elgin Baylor where he scored 71 points. 

Kobe's First and Only Regular Season MVP

It was long overdue, but it finally happened.

 

In 2008, Kobe Bryant was named NBA regular season MVP after he led his Lakers squad to the best record in the Western Conference. They went on to dominate the West and made their first NBA Finals appearance without Shaquille O'Neal. The run ended short when the Boston Celtics—led by their Big Three (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen) beat the Lakers in six games but Kobe finished that season averaging 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists a night. He later became one of the superstar faces of Team USA's "Redeem Team", helping capture the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. 

Kobe Drops 61 Points at Madison Square Garden

Every player's dream in life is to suit up for their favorite NBA squad that they grew up rooting for and to dominate in, "The World's Most Famous Arena." Kobe did this in convincing fashion in front of a sold-out crowd including famed craze Knicks fan, filmmaker Spike Lee.

 

On February 2, 2009, Bryant made the Knicks pay while trash-talking Spike en route to an MSG-record 61 points. The performance is still regarded as the greatest display of scoring from a visiting opponent in Madison Square Garden history. The Lakers ended up winning the game 126-117 as fans chanted his name and Spike Lee gave him a standing ovation.

Kobe Goes Back-To-Back In MVP Fashion

Chasing his idol Michael Jordan to be regarded as the greatest of all time, Kobe needed more championship ring to match MJ's six titles secured during his tenure as a Chicago Bull. Fresh off of a disappointing end to an NBA Finals the previous year, Kobe was determined to finally get it done without the help of Shaquille O'Neal. In true Kobe fashion, he elevated his game to another level—winning Co-MVP with Shaq at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game while returning to the NBA Finals going up against the Orlando Magic. Bryant made sure the job was handled as he and the Lakers beat out the Magic in five games en route to making history and winning his first-ever NBA Finals MVP. Kobe became the first player since Jerry West in the 1969 NBA Finals to average 32.4 points and 7.4 assists for a finals series. 

 

Destiny was on the verge as Bryant completed the ultimate "back-to-back." He led his Lakers to another NBA title as they got sweet revenge on the Boston Celtics 'Big 3' tandem by winning it in seven games. In true clutch Kobe fashion, he was able to lead an insane 14-point deficit in the third quarter to make sure the title remains in LA and that he adds another ring to his hand. Kobe won his second straight NBA Finals MVP and the chase was getting closer and closer.

 

It was his fifth and last title he would ever win but the performance catapulted him to a neck-and-neck debate of who is the greatest of all time: Kobe or MJ?

Kobe Passes 'His Airness'

The realization of Kobe finally catching up to MJ's six rings had slowly shown its true colors in the most graceful way. The Lakers were not as dominant as they were in previous seasons and there were new dynasties being formed and a new era of hoops was bubbling as the next generation of superstars were coming toward the forefront. But what stayed the same was Kobe's mark he left on the game one night at a time. It showed on December 14, 2014, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

 

With 5:24 on the clock, Bryant scored his 32,293rd career point when he swished in a pair of free throws, putting the Lakers ahead, 38-32, over the Timberwolves in the second quarter. This moment was another epic feat that made Kobe become the sole owner of third place on the all-time scoring list in NBA history. "The Black Manba" finally surpassed his "Airness", doing it his way.

 

Years of sacrificing his body, an endless amount of hours in the gym as well as displaying leadership by mentoring a new generation of hoopers on how to watch game film—finally paid off for him. The "pupil" has finally graduated to the "maestro of hoops".

Kobe Drops 60 In His Final NBA Game

The time had finally come. No one wanted to see it happen, but Bryant finally realized that enough is enough. He was ready to say goodbye to the game that made him an iconic figure in sports. Kobe decided that he would hang up his signature Nikes for good after a final regular-season showdown against the playoff-contending Utah Jazz. On the night the Golden State Warriors broke an NBA record which was held by a team his former coach was the facilitator on, Kobe stole the show and created a narrative that would be turned into a Disney movie. 

 

On April 13, 2016, Kobe dropped 60 points in his final NBA game to help the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz, 101-96. He made history by becoming the first player at 37 years or older to score 60 points or more in an NBA game. The crowd was in awe as many celebrity figures were in attendance such as Jack Nicholson, Kanye West, Chris Rock and Jay-Z. All there to witness a monumental display of scoring greatness. 

 

The performance capped off the ending of a legendary career full of records that would be impossible to break.

Life After Hoops

Investor

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Kobe's retirement plan set him up for more success, as he was able to smartly invest in venture capitals that are dominating the market today. In March 2014, Kobe invested $6 million into a sports drink startup called BodyArmour and just four years later, Coca-Cola acquired a minority stake in BodyArmour that made Kobe’s investment valued at a reported $200 million.

 

After that "slam dunk" of an investment, Kobe met with another Bryant. Bryant Stibel and Kobe quietly funded over $100 million dollars into companies such as LegalZoom and Epic Games—the same company that created Fortnite

Academy Award Winner

Kobe always had a passion for the arts outside of basketball. He was once signed by Sony Entertainment while being part of a rap group titled CHEIZAW. He even debuted a single called "K.O.B.E." during the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend. The song which features Tyra Banks wasn't well received but it didn't stop Kobe from showcasing his other talents.

 

It wasn't until April 2017 when he narrated a short film that would change the way everyone saw sports forever.

 

Dear Basketball was narrated by Kobe as a way to announce his retirement from the NBA. This outstanding project led to him being nominated and winning an Academy Award for "Best Animated Short Film." He became the first athlete ever to accomplish this feat and the first African-American man to win an Academy Award in this category. 

Advocator

After he wrote his book The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, Kobe began to voice his admiration for women's basketball. When the WNBA was struggling to find support, Kobe was among the big-name basketball enthusiasts who emphasized how amazing their play is for the sport of basketball. With his second eldest daughter, Gigi, paying close attention to the sport, he began attending games with her as well as watching them on TV. The bond elevated to another level as the two were able to connect on a deeper perspective through their mutual love for basketball.

The Role Model Coach

After Kobe retired, his love for the game grew much more due to his curious, talented pupil—his daughter Gianna (Gigi). Gigi began paying attention to the new leaders of basketball, such as Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks—her favorite NBA player. Young and a slew of other NBA talents would work out with Kobe during the offseason to help them get ready for the upcoming NBA campaign. From an endless amount of testimonies, there have been frequent stories of how intense and grueling, yet rewarding, his workout was.

 

When Kobe was not schooling the current NBA greats of today, he would mentor and coach his daughter Gigi's squad. From funny Instagram posts of him trolling his daughter's team to helping them become forces to be reckoned with, Bryant made it his duty to provide his daughter with the proper tools to live out her nickname as "Mambacita". Many have watched highlight tapes of her and can attest that she was on her way to being the second coming of her dad.

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Kobe became the embodiment of the Latin saying, Veni Vidi Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). A career that spans 20 years, and a resume full of accomplishments that it can turn into a textbook. The hoops superhero and villain you loved/hated all at once. Kobe Bryant's life was nothing short of greatness as he was able to leave a legacy that would forever continue on.

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