The Black Mamba’s legacy lives on
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Last weekend the world lost an icon and his death sent ripples all across the world. Many basketball fans, and sports lovers in general, were shocked at the sudden death of basketball legend, National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, and Lakers star Kobe Bryant who died in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

The news broke in the middle of the night and when my son-in-law told me in the morning I was convinced it was a misunderstanding or some sort of “fake news.” At least I hoped it was. It turns out that he along with my daughter and many others who are usually awake in the wee hours of the morning caught the news as it broke and ended up staying awake waiting to confirm if the news was true.

By break of day, it was confirmed. Kobe was on a helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) along with seven other people including baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, assistant girl’s basketball coach Christina Mauser, mother and daughter duo Sarah Chester and Payton, and pilot Ara Zobayan.

The group was heading to a basketball game where Gigi was scheduled to play and Kobe was scheduled to coach at Mamba Sports Academy. They had made the same trip several times before and did it avoid terrible LA traffic. Kobe had said in a previous interview that he chose to fly helicopters more than drive through traffic so that he could spend more time with his family and less time traveling back and forth. He was a family man.

Kobe’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world. He was only 41 and at the prime of his life. He was just getting started on life with his family after retiring from a glittering 20-year basketball career. He focused on coaching his daughter, spending time with his family, and his many philanthropic endeavors. There was still so much he had to do and this was unfortunately cut short that fateful day.

For basketball fans and lovers of sports, Kobe was an inspiration. His incredible work ethic showed how discipline and hard work can achieve great things. He was always the first to practice and the last to leave. He was fiercely competitive, incredibly loyal, and hardwired to win. To this day, his laser focus and extreme dedication inspire others and his “Mamba Mentality” has inspired a new generation of athletes.

Mamba mentality, in Kobe’s own words, is about “focusing on the process and trusting the hard work when it matters most. It is the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit.” This way of thinking helps push athletes when they want to achieve new heights. This is one of many legacies that Kobe has left behind.

He was also beloved all over the world. He traveled a lot during his career and has even been to the Philippines more than once. He had several fans here, many of whom were shell-shocked to find out that their idol had passed away so suddenly.

Of course, it’s not to say that he wasn’t without complications. His legacy is a complicated one because of his 2003 sexual assault case that was settled. But this mark doesn’t change all that he has contributed to the sport of basketball and the world in general. He has made over 200 wishes come true, started and contributed to several charities, and pushed for girls’ basketball to support his beloved Gigi.

That was perhaps the most heartbreaking news of all. To have lost such a beautiful and vibrant young girl this way is truly a tragedy. Little “Mambacita” (Kobe’s affectionate nickname for the girl who was so much like him) had so much she had to do in the world. Her loss feels so much like a promise left unfulfilled. Our hearts go out to Vanessa Bryant and their family as well as to the families of all of those who died on that fateful day.

At the end of the day, we’ll never forget Kobe Bryant. His legacy is more than just the complicated parts. It’s more than his illustrious career. It is how he inspired others. How he made others believe that their dreams could come true if they focused, worked hard, and gave it their all. All of this is why it is easy to understand why everyone is mourning his loss – complicated legacy and all.

There is no shame in mourning the end of a life, even when complicated legacies come into play. Considering a person’s death with empathy and grace requires us to be in touch with the most human parts of ourselves. And it serves to remind us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. 

If we take away anything from this tragedy may it be to live each day fully. When it boils down to it we never know which day is going to be our last and we don’t want to wish we had done things or said things we never got the chance to do or say. We all need to consider what legacy we want to leave in the world. And of course, hug our loved ones that much tighter.

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