Kobe Bryant: The true impact of a legend

How the death of one basketball player touched the lives of millions around the world

Growing up in Albany, it would be hard to see why I’m a Lakers fan. 

My dad gave me an old Shaquille O’Neal jersey when I was young and as I grew older, the jersey went from being down to my feet to fitting me perfectly. 

As I grew into my Shaq jersey, the Lakers grew into my identity. 

Purple became my favorite color, watching the Lakers games became my favorite thing to do, and Kobe Bryant became my favorite basketball player. 

I remember the clutch shots. 

I remember the tough playoff losses. 

And I will always remember watching Bryant and the Lakers lift two titles while my dad and I celebrated. 

After driving back to Buffalo Sunday to start the semester and after unpacking all of my belongings, I laid down to rest. 

But then I got a text from my girlfriend, who knows how much I love basketball and the Lakers.

“Wait Alex, I think Kobe died…” 

I immediately freaked out. I couldn’t believe or even comprehend what truly happened. It took a few long minutes for my mind to process the full weight of the situation.

When Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning, the whole world was shaken by the news. With a massive international fan base and with his status as one of the most famous athletes of the past two decades, the news spread quickly and affected those who grew up watching him play. 

I was one of them.

I'll admit I cried, and I know many Lakers and basketball fans did too. 

When I was younger, I didn’t understand why people were so hurt by celebrities’ deaths, as I felt they don't truly know them. 

After this, I understand.

While many actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities do not truly know us –– their fans –– there is a sort of a weird bond, a connection that is built between fans and their idols, especially over time. 

It may seem strange for people to be so emotional about the death of someone they don’t know personally, but celebrities can really have an impact on people.  Think of a musician you love to listen to, an athlete you watch or maybe an actor, streamer or content creator. Now picture them gone, forever. It would change you. It would make you extremely upset. 

That's how I felt when I heard the news.

When thinking about Kobe, I think about his legacy, his athletic ability and all the people who have watched and supported him as much as they could. 

I think of all he did for Los Angeles, the sport of basketball and for the fans all around the world.

But most of all, I think of my past. 

I think of my username “KobeBryant24” on different websites or trying to imitate him when shooting the ball. 

While I would've still loved the Lakers growing up regardless of who was on the roster, Kobe shaped my childhood and teenage years. 

Still, celebrities and legends are people too, and Kobe has a controversial past. In 2003, Bryant was charged with felony sexual assault but prosecutors dropped the case and Bryant gave the woman a settlement. The accusation did little to affect his career trajectory, but when talking about Bryant, this case needs to be considered. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the accusation should define the legacy of someone who accomplished so much on and off the court. 

When I’m hanging with my dad, the conversations always come back to basketball and the Lakers. Watching Kobe dominate and win with the team was a big part of my life and nothing will ever replicate that feeling. 

For anyone who’s upset and grieving, I suggest trying to celebrate Bryant for what he was able to do both on the court. This will help commemorate his history of playing great basketball. 

Thank you, Kobe, for all you did for me. You helped me bond with my dad and appreciate the sport of basketball.  

The phone call with my dad Sunday wasn’t easy after finding out about the news, but knowing all the memories Bryant gave to us, it gave us something to reminisce about. 

If anyone has any great Kobe memories or thoughts, please feel free to email me at ajpoland@buffalo.edu so we can remember the joy he brought to us.

The opinion desk can be reached at opinion@ubspectrum.com.