The death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and every passenger on that routine helicopter trip brought the basketball world to its knees on Sunday. As a life-long Trail Blazers fan, a fairly-new father and community blogger; Sunday’s events washed over me in separate and impactful waves.
I am not equipped to tell the story of Kobe Bryant’s complicated legacy, especially the alleged incident of assault in Colorado. However, I can share stories tied to the fans I’ve interacted with that truly adored what the Lakers icon brought to the city of Los Angeles, the franchise and the basketball community.
For me, Bryant’s impact will always be my friend Holly’s unwavering support of the Lakers star. In high school and in the years that followed, I would frequently engage in back-and-forth exchanges tied to Bryant’s place in the NBA hierarchy of stars. Considering the allegiance I mentioned in the opening paragraph, you know what side I was often arguing. Regardless of how well I thought my talking points would land, I somehow always left those conversations reconsidering my stance.
Holly’s love of Bryant was supported by two underlining traits: hard work and results. No matter what numbers I brought to the table, there was no shaking the admiration she had for Bryant and the connection she had to the NBA because of him.
Several years later, during my first trip to NBA Summer League; Brian Freeman, David MacKay and myself somehow found ourselves surrounded by Silver Screen & Roll contributors each evening. Packed into the back of the kitchen area of a rental house in Las Vegas, we exchanged jabs over the 2000 Western Conference Finals and the legacy of a recently-retired Bryant.
Of that group, one Kobe supporter rose above the rest, Anthony Irwin. Along with Holly, Anthony was among the first people I thought of as the news rolled out on Sunday. Regardless of rarely agreeing with Irwin, I undoubtedly respected his ardent arguments for Bryant and his impact on today’s game.
As a Drexler-idolizing NBA fan who spent his apprenticeship days alongside blue-collar workers in Chicago, I often recognized a familiar passion in Irwin’s pro-Kobe takes. Outside of the obvious feelings tied to the sudden loss of human life, visiting those memories triggered a separate wave of sorrowful emotions.
For long-time fans, we often don’t choose the stars that foster our love for basketball. More often than not, they choose us. Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Clyde Drexler, Brandon Roy and Damian Lillard embody that for different segments of Blazers fans. Bryant was that for an entire generation of Lakers faithful.
As I stated earlier, I am not fit to recap Bryant’s career. Instead, I will leave you the words that Irwin shared about Bryant.
Kobe wasn’t perfect. We know about the blemishes on his resumé. Kobe knew, himself, that he wasn’t perfect. But even with that understood, he tried like hell to come close. That’s what I’ll always remember about him, and what I’ll carry forward with me until the day I, too, pass on.
Bryant’s legacy is that, no matter what it is that you put your mind to, even knowing there’s no way you will be perfect or the best-ever at it, that’s no reason not to strive for that goal.
You can read the Irwin’s full post at Silver Screen & Roll.