A tragedy has occurred in the world of basketball. On Sunday, January 26, 2020, at about 9:45 PST., basketball legend and loving father Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California, along with his 13 year old daughter, Gianna Bryant. They leave behind wife Vanessa, and three children/siblings, Natalia (17), Bianka (3), and recently born Capri. Also involved in the crash was college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, his daughter Alyssa, Sara Chester, her daughter Payton, who played basketball for Kobe a few years earlier, basketball coach Christina Mauser, and the pilot Ara Zobayan. Bryant was 41 at the time of his death, and some would say he was in the prime of his life.
The Life of Kobe Bryant was one full of stardom, controversy, scandal, and excellence. Bryant played the entirety of his professional basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers. In his career, Bryant won five total NBA championships, was an 18 time all star, and won two finals MVPs and one league MVP. Bryant finished his career as the third highest scorer in NBA history. He was passed in scoring by Lebron James on Saturday, January 25, 2020. Outside of basketball, Bryant was a director and an author, and was also a fluent speaker of both French and Italian. He won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his animated short titled “Dear Basketball.”
Bryant’s death shocked the world, including many people from here in Herrin. Junior Kaden Bigler talked about what Bryant meant to him on and off the court. “He meant a lot. He was way more than basketball. He was very motivated to be the greatest there ever was,” said Bigler. Senior Brandon Anthony also talked about the legend, saying “I grew up watching him. I wore his shoes all the time. He made me want to play the game more.” Senior Ashton Hawk chimed in, saying “He was inspirational. He was a motivation to, not only little kids, but also to high school athletes.” Finally, Boys Basketball coach Sayler Shurtz discussed what Bryant meant to him. “He was a big part of my childhood. You talk about a guy who played forever. He defines hard work and tenacity. For me, it reminds me how much I love the game. He was a guy that seemed like he would never die.”
When talking about how much he changed the game, they all four had something to say about his game. Bigler said “He sorta carried on what MJ did, and inspired the next generation of athletes.” Anthony mentioned Bryant’s mentality, saying “ he changed the mentality of the game. No friends on the court. He got everyone to work harder and be as good as he was. He always worked harder than everyone because he knew everyone else was working, too.” Hawk talked about how he was a great role model, mentioning that “you don’t have to be what everyone expects you to be.” Lastly, Shurtz talked about his inspiration, saying “he was the greatest in the game for a number of years. You might not have always liked him, but you have to admire his will to win.
When talking about Bryant, everyone that was interviewed couldn’t help but smile. Bigler said, “I’ll never forget Kobe Bryant. What he did inspired a lot of people to go out and do something.” Bryant’s work ethic was noticed by many, and his talent did not go unused, according to Shurtz. “The thing I loved about him was that he had all the talent in the world and never let it go to waste. He was just a winner.”
Kobe Bryant was many things. He was a great shooter and playmaker in basketball, a loving husband and father at home, and most of all, he was an influence to everyone who loved the game of basketball. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families of those who were involved. It’s hard to imagine what they must be going through at this time. Always remember that life is too precious. Rest In Peace, Kobe Bryant. Thank you for everything you have done.