By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports reporter
Making sense of what happened on Sunday Jan. 26, 2020 in California would be the equivalent of trying to figure out the keys to immortality. That’s because in life, you get one chance to experience it all and hearing the news of worldwide icon Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other passengers, was heartbreaking news to say the least.
To say that Kobe didn’t have some kind of impact on anyone who follows sports and are of the ages of 16 and up would be a total understatement, as the former Los Angeles Lakers’ shooting guard was that name we heard on ESPN’s Sportscenter or any highlight show night in and night out for all 20 seasons of his career.
From winning five NBA championships with the Lakers, to scoring 81 points (second highest scoring performance in league history) against the Toronto Raptors to scoring 60 points in his final game against the Utah Jazz in 2016. He brought upon the ‘Mamba Mentality’ that became something athletes around the world embraced.
You didn’t just have to be someone aspiring to play the game of basketball, it was a mentality that dug deep with any athlete in any sport. When Kobe tore his Achilles heel on April 12th, 2013 in a game against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant famously knocked down two free throws before walking off the court on his own.
San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman in his Super Bowl LIV Media interview touched on when he tore his own Achilles heel and how he remembered Kobe walked it off. Sherman, who is teammates with former Nature Coast running back Matt Breida, stated he wanted to make sure he did the same.
Playing basketball was just one part of Kobe’s legacy, but his life off of the basketball court was seemingly just finding its stride. Kobe was well known for being an influential figure in his daughters’ lives, including that of Gianna, whom many slated to be playing in the collegiate ranks once she completed high school. Kobe leaves behind his three daughters Natalia, Bianca, Capri and wife Vanessa.
Though Kobe’s career doesn’t go completely unblemished, as a widely covered rape scandal occurred back in 2003. Charges were dropped in the case and Kobe continued to display brilliance on the basketball court, winning two more NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 outside of the titles won in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Kobe’s ties to aspiring young hoopers in Hernando County is obvious, as many players and coaches throughout the county took to Twitter to retweet about Kobe’s passing. Kobe’s impact on the game of basketball in general is unquestionable and to fill the gap that he leaves behind cannot be filled. His legendary status lives on through the eyes of those who watched him play, through the social media interactions he shared with those around the world and for the many highlights he displayed on a daily basis for 20 seasons.
Why Kobe seemed like an immortal figure was something I myself had to figure out since finding out the heartbreaking news at the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando. Immortality isn’t something we can figure out, and neither is trying to make sense of what happened on Sunday morning in California.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.