It couldn’t be real.
That’s the only thing I could think when I received a text with the news that made the entire world stand still Sunday.
“Kobe (Bryant) might have died.”
It was that simple.
While the details started coming out throughout the afternoon, it did not take long for major outlets to report what we had feared. Kobe Bryant was dead.
I was not the biggest Bryant fan in the world. One of my first basketball memories was him beating my Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals.
But Bryant meant so much to the game of basketball and he was ambassador for so many things I am passionate about it was hard not to like him during the late parts of his career and especially after retirement.
I found myself in tears on multiple occasions Sunday and eventually I had to find a way to let it all out. For me, writing is how I let it out.
Bryant was a different animal on the court and he inspired an entire generation of players, including many who are in the league now. The moments shared by those players Sunday were heartbreaking to watch but at the same time, it was amazing to see how much Bryant impacted all of them.
You heard so much about how Bryant was not a great teammate and he was almost too competitive. But people who knew him clearly still loved him.
What Bryant did so well, especially after his career ended, was show that love back to everyone. He loved Los Angeles Lakers fans and he said it in perfectly after his final game at Staples Center. He loved other all-stars he was surrounded by like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and gave time to some of the newcomers like Larry Nance Jr., Kyrie Irving and Trae Young.
There are countless other names who will carry on his legacy in the league and we will not see that legacy die anytime soon on the basketball court. Bryant was about more than that though.
This is the guy who won an Oscar right after retiring from a 20-year career in the NBA. I think it’s safe to say no one will ever do that again.
Bryant was not a perfect person and his legal past absolutely shows that but what you can always hope is people learn from their mistakes and he did that. He advocated for so many of the right things.
He spoke up for Colin Kaepernick during his protests and even donated to his cause. Bryant was a major supporter for women’s sports and backed up all of his talk by showing up at games and putting more attention on female athletes.
We saw Bryant put all of that love and devotion into being a family man once he hung up his jersey. It became rarer to see Bryant by himself than with one of his daughters or his wife, Vanessa, at his side.
The news of Bryant’s tragedy was tough enough but when more names were discovered, it was impossible to stand. Bryant’s basketball legacy was going to be carried by others but his name was going to be carried by his daughter Gianna on the court. Now that can’t happen.
While we may always yell “Kobe!” when we toss a paper ball toward the trash can, don’t let that be the end of how you honor his legacy.
Work as hard as possible to accomplish your goals. Learn from your mistakes and stand up for what’s right. Love the people in your life and don’t take a single second with them for granted.
And don’t ever let that Mamba Mentality die.
Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for The Tribune.