Growing up playing basketball with the boys, I developed a huge love for the game at a young age.
We played everyday. Before school, during recess, after school. I’d go home and shoot around until it was dark; we all did. We grew up idolizing players like LeBron, Carmelo and D-Wade. And of course, Kobe Bryant.
His untimely death hits hard in a few different ways. He was young, had just retired, left a family behind and was an idol for basketball players everywhere. His influence on and off the court is going to be missed most of all because he was just starting his second legacy.
Bryant founded the Mamba Sports Academy in 2018. A sports training facility that followed his “Mamba Mentality”. One of his daughters, Gianna, played basketball for Mamba. She had dreams of playing for the college powerhouse UConn and in the WNBA. Gianna and a few of her teammates were also on the helicopter crash on Sunday.
He had four daughters and his influence in women’s sports is strong. He regularly gave advice to college basketball superstar, Sabrina Ionescu. He supported the WNBA by attending games.
Bryant even branched outside of basketball. He supported the United States women’s national soccer team, as well as women’s tennis and boxing stars. Even his own daughters participated in other sports outside of basketball including gymnastics, volleyball, tennis and soccer.
The women’s game lost an important supporter and ally. Bryant’s support of not just the WNBA, but women’s sports in general, helped athletes and leagues gain the respect they deserve. Having the support one of the most respected basketball players of all time for women’s sports was huge.
Losing him is losing an integral part of the women’s game.
His Mamba Mentality, to constantly be the best version of yourself, didn’t just inspire athletes, but it inspired anyone with drive and dedication to their craft. Whether that was their career, hobby or sport.
The boys I used to play basketball with and I have long gone separate ways. But I know on Sunday we all felt the same pain. The pain the entire sports world felt. The pain everyone who has lost someone too soon has felt.
Bryant’s death isn’t just the loss of a former basketball star. It’s bigger than an individual. It’s bigger than basketball. A second legacy cut too short. It’s a loss of influence, loss of mentality.
Even with that loss, his retirement was the start of something new. The start of helping younger players how to be the best version of themselves. The start of his second legacy. The start of his off-the-court influence. Mamba may be gone, but Mamba Mentality lives forever.