Legend Kobe Bryant passed away this past Sunday, January 26, aged 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) Bryant, and seven other people.
For hours upon hours, the Earth seemed to stand still. Fans looking from afar could not comprehend that their beloved superstar had passed, and close friends of Kobe similarly could not make any sense of the tragedy.
After retiring from the NBA in 2016, Kobe transitioned into his next chapter of life seamlessly.
The questions of how such an obsessor of basketball would fair in a world outside of it were put to bed almost immediately. Kobe got to spend more time with his lovely family.
He wrote a basketball/wizardry book in the same vein as Harry Potter. He even won an Oscar for his short film based on a letter he wrote, titled, Dear Basketball.
“Dear Basketball.” A short film by Kobe. Hits really hard. pic.twitter.com/wa7CcLH19P
— David Wertheim (@Dave11W) January 26, 2020
And as a man with three daughters and an expected fourth (who has since been born), Kobe became a figure that in the past may have been impossible to predict: a champion for women and specifically women’s athletics.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 28, 2020
Kobe initially expected to take a step away from basketball when he retired.
The Laker legend would be welcomed with open arms to any game he wanted to attend, but instead, Kobe found himself happier just being at home, surrounded by his family.
It allowed Kobe to take part in other activities that he has always been interested in and excelled at like reading, writing, learning different languages.
But then his daughter Gianna started to show an even bigger interest in basketball. She wanted to go watch games and her favorite players playing. She wanted to sit with her dad, enjoy the beauty of the game, and listen to her father’s wisdom.
@kulturehubto all the wisdom we’ll miss out on 🙏 🙏 🙏 #ripkobebryant #kobebryant♬ original sound – kulturehub
Kobe opened up the Mamba Sports Academy, a place where his daughter and kids like her could play basketball and train with the Mamba Mentality.
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He taught Gigi and her teammates that winning was a mindset, and you should always push yourself beyond the limits of what you thought was attainable.
Kobe was always a present father, but after retirement, he took it to another level.
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Kobe was a frequent attendee of Oregon’s women’s basketball team. Along with Gianna, Kobe would visit the Ducks, sign their shoes, complement their games.
Kobe also spoke very highly of the WNBA, a sport he said Gianna wanted to play in “for sure.” The mamba went so far as to say certain WNBA players Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne and Maya Moore could play in the NBA.
Kobe Bryant says there’s WNBA players that could play in the NBA right now, including Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne & Maya Moore!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 22, 2020
Kobe’s high regard for the league did not go unnoticed.
The Commissioner of the WNBA, Cathy Engelbert, said in a statement Sunday,
“Kobe’s support for the WNBA and women’s basketball along with his passion for helping young girls and boys follow their dreams made him a true legend for our sport.”
Diana Taurasi remembers Kobe Bryant pic.twitter.com/LF7nbjLkj8
— WNBA (@WNBA) January 28, 2020
It wasn’t just women’s basketball that Kobe spoke out on behalf of. He was a longtime fan and friend of the star-studded women’s national soccer team.
The team that still doesn’t earn the same wages as their male counterparts, even though they out-perform the men in every accolade and identifiable metric.
U.S. Forward Carli Lloyd had this to say after Kobe’s passing:
“Kobe’s been out to many of our games. He’s been a huge supporter of our team over the years. Just a huge female athlete supporter. It’s just heartbreaking, it honestly is.”
Only three years after retiring, Kobe was already doing so many great things and inspiring so many people. It is disheartening to know his life was taken so soon and we won’t be able to witness what else was in store for him.
And what else was in store for Gigi, a sweet young girl with her whole life ahead of her. A girl who was confident in her basketball skill, and beloved by everyone she came across.
But we must not be disheartened for too long. We must not succumb to the haunting depths of despair. The whole message of the Mamba Mentality is to push through adversity, fight beyond where we thought we could.
We must let love lead the way, which, before Sunday, seemed more absent recently than in a very long time. We must stick up for the disenfranchised, the underappreciated, which is so often women athletes.
By supporting women’s athletics, you are supporting Kobe. You are supporting Gigi. There is no doubt about it, this is part of Kobe’s legacy.