Kobe-Gianna

FILE - In this July 26, 2018 file photo former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, Calif. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Gianna also died in the crash. She was 13. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Usually when people encounter a black snake in the wild, they run in the other direction and never look back.

Never would you look to this animal for inspiration, but people have been looking to this Black Mamba for years. People looked at Kobe Bryant in awe, in anger, for guidance, for inspiration. No matter why or what for, the world never ran in the other direction when it came to Kobe Bryant. 

And now, he’s gone. 

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26.

The whole sports world is trying to deal with the unexpected loss of a true legend as athletes from LSU’s own Shaquille O’Neal breaking down on NBA on TNT’s pregame show to soccer stars across the globe. 

Fans, athletes and reporters alike have cried and shared their stories of why Kobe meant so much to them and to the world.

Growing up in a Boston Celtics household, I was trained to hate the Los Angeles Lakers. That included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kobe Bryant.

Yet, Bryant was so universally loved in the end. So much so that I had to put up my Celtics green and really look at this Kobe Bryant guy.

He was a pure scorer and had the best turnaround jumper that I have ever seen. The resemblance to Michael Jordan was uncanny.

Even if he would have beaten Abdul-Jabbar in scoring, that would not have changed the love he received throughout his basketball career and retirement.

His constant demeanor is what caused Kobe to ascend to a cultural icon, not his pullup jumpers or his reverse layups.

He taught the world the importance not just to do what you love, but work hard once you find it. That Mamba Mentality is a lesson that we could all use in our day-to-day lives. 

At the end of the day, Bryant was a father first and raised four daughters and never felt any pressure to have a son. 

That is what made him special. He found his two passions, basketball and parenthood, and worked harder than anyone else at both. Until the very end.

Make no mistake about it, he needed to have this mentality to endure the rough stretches of his life. He was drafted out of high school and traded to straight to one of the most successful franchises in the NBA -- and maybe all of sports -- and wasn’t immediately accepted by his teammates. 

And he faced hardships throughout his time in the league, but never as public as one night in Colorado in 2003. 

In 2003, Bryant faced a rape allegation from a 19-year-old woman who worked at a hotel where Bryant was staying. The charges were eventually dismissed after the woman failed to testify, but later a civil suit was brought was settled out of court.

This situation tarnished his legacy for a significant amount of time and almost led to a divorce in 2011, but Kobe never quit and continued to improve himself.

He often leaned on his faith in the Catholic Church and emphasized his dedication to his family by picking up his children whenever he could, even after long nights in the gym or on the road. He was even recognized for saying that talking to his priest saved him during his darker times.

In addition to getting through hardship, Bryant was an intellectual who knew multiple languages and continued to become more informed in any subject that could help him connect with others.

This is why young people look up to Kobe, not just basketball players. He admitted that he made mistakes, but he found what he loved, and he never let those passions go. Every challenge that you face is only as tough as the mentality you bring to it, and Kobe showed that if you bring the “Mamba Mentality” to what you love, you will be doing it for a long time.

Thank you, Kobe Bean Bryant, for showing the world what to strive for: love of what you do. I can’t wait to tell my sons and daughters the story of the young stud from Philadelphia that never knew when to quit.

It will become their favorite story.

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