Remembering Black Mamba

By Dylan Manfre

It is just the nature of a journalist to have something on their minds they may want to formulate into a story.

With this story, however, I am at a loss for words.

I sat on my bed aimlessly typing on my computer in an attempt to comprehend the legacy and horrific passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who were among seven others to perish in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in California.

I was on a FaceTime call with a friend when I got an alert from Twitter saying that TMZ Sports had reported a helicopter crash in Los Angeles involving Kobe Bryant. I immediately said to my friend, “No way. It’s fake.”

I wished this was some sick joke and hoped someone would be punished for putting out a massively fake headline.

It’s probably safe to say most of the world wishes that were the case too.

I called my dad. He has a way with words and putting things into perspective, so I thought he would be the right person to call. I went on a walk around campus that evening just to tell him “I love you” and to try to put into words how I felt.

He told me the empty feeling was similar to when he was a freshman at Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1980 and he learned that John Lennon was shot and killed. The death of someone of Kobe Bryant’s and Lennon’s stature carries a magnitude beyond reasonable comprehension because of the type of impact they had on the world.

They were bigger than their occupation. Kobe Bryant was bigger than basketball.

As I type this story, I cannot help but hold back tears and think to myself, “I’m using the past tense.”

Kobe Bryant’s impact transcended the NBA. It transcends gender. He was a vocal advocate for women’s sports. He supported his daughters in all their endeavors, supported up-and-coming women’s sports, and supported the WNBA.

He worked with numerous college players like Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu and former UConn Husky Breanna Stewart, to name a couple.

Rider women’s basketball Head Coach Lynn Milligan even believed he would one day be the owner of a WNBA team. The world believed Gigi Bryant would be in the league one day. When they perished, it was almost as if the world stopped rotating on its axis. Time stood still.

“He’s been one of the faces of women’s basketball as far as the support of our sport,” Milligan said. “I envisioned him to be a WNBA owner, to be really honest with you. He was an iconic figure for this generation.”

In all honesty, coach Milligan, I could see that happening too. Heck, he could have started his own team and Gigi would have played for it.

He was — as ESPN SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan said on Jan. 28 — “a girl dad.” Hashtag #Girldad began trending on Twitter because Kobe Bryant loved his four girls and was a champion for equality.

Prior to the women’s basketball team’s game against Marist on Jan. 28, there was a 24.8 second moment of silence.

Amari Johnson spoke on some of the lessons she took away from one of her basketball idols.

“Work hard and work ethic. You have to work hard to do anything you want to in life and he obviously worked hard all the way to be a legend,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows his name and what he does.”

The Rider men’s basketball team wore shirts with the No. 24 on the front with No. 8 on the back. The shirts read “Mamba for Life!”

“A guy like Kobe Bryant — a guy that I looked up to — in terms of his work ethic as a person, in terms of what he got done on the basketball court, this is the least we could do to celebrate his life,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said. “I think it’s important for our guys to know tomorrow’s not promised for any of us. Sometimes it takes something like this unfortunately for us to understand what’s important in life … I had these guys listen to ‘Dear Basketball’ what Kobe [Bryant] wrote … I respect anybody who can dedicate themselves to anything, whether it be basketball or anything else in life.”

Even if you did not follow sports, you knew who Kobe Bryant was and that he was synonymous with the highest level of basketball. To some, he was just a player that people knew. To others, he was their role model. One of the biggest lessons I took away from this tragedy is that life is too short. It is too damn short.

It would take years to come up with the appropriate words to summarize Kobe Bryant’s impact on the world, not just in the United States but everywhere. He was a pioneer for the game internationally.

It helped that he spoke three languages fluently.

Kobe Bryant and Gigi Bryant will have a memorial service eventually, but it seems like the outpouring of love from the Los Angeles community has already memorialized him, his daughter and the seven other passengers since the tragic news was confirmed.

The NBA is regarded as a family.

There may be rivals on the court, but this tragedy brought people together. On social media, there were multiple images of a new NBA logo donning purple and gold with a silhouette of Kobe Bryant instead of the current logo depicting Laker legend, and personal friend of Kobe Bryant’s, Jerry West.

Spencer Dinwittie of the Brooklyn Nets was one of many players to change his jersey number.

He will now wear No. 26 instead of No. 8, which was Kobe Bryant’s number when he entered the league.

Lakers guard Quinn Cook now wears No. 28 instead of No. 2, which was Gigi Bryant’s number on her Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team at Mamba Sports Academy.

The Lakers held a moving tribute to Kobe Bryant prior to their game against the Portland Trailblazers.

It was the first game since the tragedy. Usher began by singing “Amazing Grace,” followed by a cellist providing music to an emotional video tribute.

Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa performed “See you Again” which they released after Paul Walker died in 2013.

I got chills. I even got chills writing that sentence simply because of the tone and message of the song. There will never be another Kobe Bryant.

When LeBron James addressed the crowd man did that hit me. It was the first time a player had publicly spoken in person. He adlibed his speech after tossing a prepared speech to the floor.

He ended the pregame remembrance saying the following — and I think he speaks for everyone: “In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out.’ But in the words of us, ‘not forgotten.’”

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