By Tom Griffin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Sports Editor
Kobe Bryant, the recently retired 20-year veteran of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, was tragically killed in a Helicopter Accident over the Californian city of Calabasas.
En route to coaching his 13-year-old daughter Gianna’s basketball game, Bryant, his daughter, two of her teammates, three parents of the teammates and an assistant coach passed away as the pilot lost the Californian hills in heavy fog.
Stunned media outlets, both within and outside of sports coverage, scrambled to learn absolutely anything about the tragedy, or even to prove the story was real. While the news was initially broken by TMZ, a universal cloud of doubt hovered over the sudden development. Nobody wanted to believe Kobe was dead.
The rapidly breaking news soon escaped TMZ’s grasp, locking down the days broadcasts and publications for organizations like CNN, NBC, and the New York Times – publications that had never been sports-focused but, still, like the rest of us, couldn’t believe what we were reading.
Within the first hour, the news of the tragedy was slow. Millions took to twitter to get answers, get closure, or just to grieve. Roughly 1.38 million tweets about ‘Kobe’ within the hour not only soared as the day’s number one trend but brought enough traffic to crash the site temporarily.
The news of Bryant’s sudden passing immediately sent ripples through the sports world. The ESPN broadcast of the NFL pro bowl, which had just about reached halftime by the time the news was broken, formally stopped play to offer a moment of silence. Camping World Stadium in Orlando remained eerily silent for long after the moment ended. No one knew quite what to say.
Athletes across the medium immediately took to social media to express their condolences. NFL stars like Mike Thomas, Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell, and the soon-to-be Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes expressed grief, shock, and honor to a man that they themselves had idolized. In the MLB, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig made strikingly clear the honor and respect he held his fellow Los Angeles star in.
Nowhere was the impact of Kobe’s passing felt harder than the NBA. Magic Johnson made a rare twitter appearance to express his own grieving. The Lakers game scheduled for the day of the accident, coincidentally against another Los Angeles team in the Clippers, was postponed indefinitely.
Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s longtime Lakers teammate and friend who had, as a tandem, won the three-peat – three back-to-back NBA Finals victories – broke down in tears during the day’s presentation of Inside the NBA. “I’m not gonna be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony,” O’Neal mentioned, painfully. “I wish I could say one last thing to him.”
It is without a doubt that Kobe’s on-court performance would warrant a Hall of Fame induction. As a five-time NBA champion, the league MVP in 2008, and the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 points as an off-guard, his impact on the Lakers over his twenty-year tenure is impossible to measure.
Despite the star-studded accolades following Bryant from his professional career, it is more likely that the legendary player will be remembered instead for his ‘Mamba Mentality.’ Bryant described the Mamba Mentality as “The infinite curiosity to want to be better. It’s when you’re competing, not worried about the end result.”
Bryant’s mentality carries implications both on and off the court. In basketball, it defined his never-ending drive to win, his constant improvement, and a rise in production spanning his two-decade career. His message, however, bled into American off-court life, encouraging his fans and followers to grind out their personal lives, jobs, and aspirations with an air of earnest, hardworking patience, looking not to instantly succeed but to improve little-by-little every day.
Bryant, 41, is survived by his wife Vanessa, three daughters, and millions of fans both at home and worldwide.
(Photo Credit Christian Petersen)