Taken from MSN.Com.
LOS ANGELES –– Kobe Bryant, 41, the legendary basketball star who spent 20 years with the Lakers, was killed when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed and burst into flames Sunday morning amid foggy conditions in the hills above Calabasas, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
His daughter Gianna, 13, was also on board and died along with seven others, authorities said. NBA officials confirmed that Bryant and his daughter were on the aircraft, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people were on board — a pilot and eight passengers. He would not confirm who had died until all the next of kin are notified, he said.
Growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s the NBA became my first sports love. I grew up watching Magic Johnson and the Lakers “Showtime” team with head coach, Pat Riley.
Unfortunately, I was also a New York Knicks fan. The Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s broke my young heart, year after year. Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson became villains to me on route to winning 6 NBA Titles. When Jackson was named the Lakers head coach in 1999-2000, I instantly despised everyone and everything to do with my second favorite NBA team. That included Kobe Bryant.
Every year, I tried to make excuses as to why Bryant was always winning. I thought to myself, Kobe was winning because Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neil. My argument was validated when Shaq was named the MVP in three straight NBA Finals. Shaq left the Lakers and won a title in 2006, with the Miami Heat. I thought to myself, the Lakers are now done.
All that changed in 2009. Bryant led the “Shaq-less” Lakers to back-to-back titles in 2009-2010. Kobe averaged 30.2 and 29.2 points per game in the post season during that championship run. I wanted to dislike the Laker legend for so many reasons but I couldn’t. As a former player, coach and basketball historian, I had to admire what he did on the court. Kobe Bryant is not the greatest player to ever play the game, but he is top 10, that is a tremendous accomplishment. Other than Magic Johnson, there has never been a better Laker player or a better face of a sports franchise.
LeBron James just passed number 24 on the all time scoring list, but there was no one better than “The Black Mamba” at crunch time. Kobe wanted to not only beat you on the court, he wanted to break your spirit.
In his last game as a professional, in front of a packed LA Crowd, he scored 60 points. Other than winning a championship, there wasn’t a better way to end your career.
Many people want to focus on the negative aspects of Kobe’s life, this is not the time or place to do that. We all have demons, we have all made mistakes. Those who knew him said he was finally at peace and loved spending time with his wife and 4 daughters.
Several athletes tend to struggle with identity and what to do after their playing careers are done. On March 14th, 2018, Bryant won an Oscar for his animated short, “Dear Basketball.” Even though his playing career was over, I feel his life with his four children and wife was just beginning.
I rooted against Kobe Bryant my whole life and he always proved me wrong.
I am rooting for his family now.
He was and is… A Los Angeles Legend.
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