Kobe Bean Bryant has died. Like everyone else, I didn't want to believe the news. No way. I was overwhelmed with shock and taken aback with a loss for words.
This was less than one day after LeBron James passed him for third place on the all-time scoring list. This was less than four years after he left the game of basketball in tears and less than three years after the Los Angeles Lakers retired both his "8" and "24" jerseys into the rafters at Staples Center. This is all happening the same season in the NBA that we lost former commissioner David Stern.
Not only did we lose possibly the greatest Lakers player of all-time, an NBA legend and the closest mirror image to Michael Jordan himself, the world lost someone who encompassed the very essence of hard work, passion, dedication, determination, perseverance, but above all else, a father and husband.
Kobe's legacy, which he grew through 20 years on the NBA hardwood with the same team, will always be remembered. Five rings, 18x All-Star, league MVP, 81 points. What's hard to fathom is we lost him just as he was starting to live his life after basketball. He was an entrepreneur, an investor, a mentor, an Academy Award winner and coach. His Mamba Sports Academy was his way of continuing to share his passion with not only his daughters, but the next generation of ball players.
That's why it was even more painful to find out his daughter Gianna was on the helicopter with him. The two of them were en route to an academy he coached at when it crashed in Calabasas, California. Their love for the game and their strong father and daughter bond was well documented.
Bryant was only 41 years old and his daughter was only 13 years old. Our hearts go out to his wife Vanessa and their family. We won't be able to hear the Black Mamba give his Hall of Fame speech. We won't be able to see him walk Mambacita and his daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri down the aisle. But the Mamba's legacy will always live in the rafters at Staples Center and Mamba Mentality will always live in all our hearts.
Rest in paradise Kobe and Gianna, thank you for EVERYTHING.