Legends Die Hard

Austin McNabb
5 min readJan 29, 2020


Basketball icon Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others en route to a youth basketball game. (NBC photo)

I really wasn’t sure if it was true when I saw the TMZ report of Kobe Bryant dying in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Minutes before, I was asking a friend, who’s a die-hard Kobe fan, in a text how he felt about LeBron James passing him for third on the all-time NBA scoring list the night before as he was already in the news.

Then as more reports appeared and it became official, the sports world just stopped. Players at the Pro Bowl had bittersweet hearts as they were about to play a game that should be more relaxing. World news and social media blew up.

Even more sad was hearing his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also being killed. Later on, the authorities said nine people lost their lives on that helicopter in Calabasas, California, an L.A. suburb, on Sunday morning. The rest being adolescents, parents, a coach and a pilot going to their youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks.

In my lifetime, I can’t think of a sports-related death being so huge. Obviously, it being a tragedy is what makes it so shocking.

Bryant was just 41 years old. The basketball icon had only been retired for four years, and despite being such a competitor obsessed with winning, seemed to be enjoying life the most with so many years ahead. He had many business ventures and even became the first former professional athlete to win an Oscar as he wrote a short film called Dear Basketball.

And now he was getting to really spend time with his family, something pro athletes and coaches dream of getting to when they retire.

Bryant’s accolades are hard to not forget. In 1996, he came into the league straight out of high school at 18, the youngest to ever play in the NBA for that time. He won five NBA titles, including two Finals MVPs, in seven appearances. He was the regular season MVP in 2008, won the scoring title in back-to-back years in ‘06–07, went to the All-Star Game 18 times, and had 11 seasons as All-NBA first team. He spent all 20 years of his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, the second-most for any player to stay with one franchise, only having been beat by Dirk Nowitzki at 21.

His nickname was “Black Mamba” as he went by a mantra that became world-embraced called “mamba mentality.” A mamba is a deadly snake and he used it as an assassin-like mentality, focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most.

That he was with his killer instinct, something LeBron doesn’t really have even though he’s more talented. Bryant, identical to Michael Jordan as he was a 6'6" shooting guard, resembled him the most as he came in the next generation of NBA players, but he fell one title short of MJ, who had six.

He scored the second-most ever points in an NBA game with 81, only trailing Wilt Chamberlain’s 100, which wasn’t as impressive considering his height and competition back then.

From ‘96–04, Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal were arguably the most dominant 1–2 punch in NBA history, achieving a three-peat together before their drama ensued and Shaq got traded. They reconciled though.

Bryant was an inspiration to the entire world with how hard he worked. Even his most hated rivals respected him.

On a personal note, I’m not a Kobe or Laker fan as I’ve tended to root against them the past decade, but nowadays, I really miss watching him. Not only would he score a lot of points, but he did it when the NBA played defense and teams were scoring in the 80s and 90s on a consistent basis.

When I would watch him prepare for his shots at the free-throw line, I used to mimic him saying, “I want to win another NBA championship.”

Well, he did. And when he announced in November 2015 that it was his final season after being slowed down by injuries, opposing crowds celebrated him in his world tour. In his final game ever at the Staples Center, he went off for an astounding 60 points. Pretty Kobe-like.

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Kobe’s sudden death is what’s dominating the headlines.

I never knew him personally or even met him nor was I one of his fans, but it’s heartbreaking seeing this.

Sports people get so caught up in hating their opponents and criticizing others. It’s such a big industry that people forget these celebrities are people too.

In fact within the last year, I’ve thought for myself if I come across a star, that I would want to just treat them like a human even if I get a picture or autograph. I think they would appreciate that and I think the Bryant family would too.

Those closest to him aren’t thinking about the star he is. This is their husband, father, son, brother. And his daughter, who had a promising basketball career ahead of her, was a family member too and had her whole life ahead of her.

Though some, during this tragic time, insensitively call him a rapist for that incident in 2003 when it seems it was more of a misunderstanding of consent between him and another party as the case ended in a civil lawsuit, he repented. He and his wife, Vanessa, almost got a divorce because of things like that, which happened during their marriage, but they reconciled.

It’s not just Kobe and Gianna, but there’s those seven other lives lost. Those families and friends are devastated. An investigation is looking into what was the cause, but it seems the fog was a factor.

Many tributes have been pouring in. NBA teams have been taking 8- and 24-second shot-clock violations in honor of his two numbers. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is retiring Bryant’s number 24. You have to wonder if there will be more.

Cuban said in a tweet that this tragedy has “brought our country closer together than anyone has in a generation.” It’s quite a statement, but I think there’s a lot of truth to that as many rivals have actually agreed on something, which is nice to see for once.

Bryant was the player of my generation growing up. Watching Lakers games without him just aren’t the same anymore. More importantly, life without him to so many just isn’t the same. May he rest in peace.



Austin McNabb

I love Jesus, dancing and in this blog, sports.