Kobe Bryant, Lakers shooting guard, stands ready to shoot a free throw during a 2005 pre-season game against the Golden State Warriors. Bryant along with eight others were the victims of a fatal helicopter crash early Sunday morning. Joseph A. Lee/ Wikimedia Commons.

“Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”

The Sandlot

On Sunday just after 2:30 p.m., news of basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s death first arrived. As word spread across the Twittersphere, sports fans everywhere sat in disbelief. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t be gone.

As reports continued to file in, it became clear: Kobe Bryant, the Philadelphia-born legend and Oscar award-winning filmmaker, had passed away in a helicopter crash along with eight other passengers.

Kobe’s legacy is a complicated one. The natural successor to “His Airness” Michael Jordan, the 41-year-old legend and five-time NBA champion was larger than life. A walking symbol of dedication and a tireless drive to be great, the self-titled “Black Mamba” was known as a calculated and fierce competitor. A man so dedicated to the sport that his Oscar award-winning film was aptly-named “Dear Basketball.”

Across basketball communities, Bryant’s “Mamba mentality” was hailed as the barometer for greatness to which every subsequent star would be compared.

“Yeah, LeBron James is great, but does he have that killer instinct? Does he have that ‘Mamba mentality?’” is as the popular argument goes.

Bryant entered the professional basketball landscape in 1996 when he was selected thirteenth overall in the NBA draft out of Lower Merion High School, just outside of Philadelphia, PA. The high-flying youngster was immediately shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers where he, combined with Shaquille O’Neal, created one of the greatest duos in NBA history.

During his rookie year, Kobe infamously airballed four shots in five minutes in a losing playoff effort. Bryant refused to allow his legacy to be dictated by his rookie mistakes, crafting his game into a mirror image of Michael Jordan’s and winning three titles with Shaq before jettisoning the Hall of Fame big man to lead a team of his own.

Kobe would win two more titles before hanging up the sneakers. In his final game, Bryant scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz before riding off into the sunset.

Following the end of his playing career, Bryant dove headfirst into the world of business, establishing Kobe Inc., founding a venture capital firm, writing a book and winning an Oscar for ‘Dear Basketball.’

Saturday night, LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, accomplishing the feat in Kobe’s hometown. In a way, it is a poetic ending to one of the most storied careers in NBA history.

Although Bryant may have passed on, his legend will never die.

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