JOSEPH LITTAUA WRITES – It was a year ago when I was getting ready to go to mass on a Sunday morning when the news broke on Twitter about Kobe Bryant and a helicopter ride that seemed very ill-advised. I still remember it vividly, looking angrily at news outlets and trying to find proof that what was being said was false. But, as it turned out, my curiosity created a cruel moment in my own personal history as I had to sit down and accept the fact that one of the men who had proven over time only to age better over time -from selfish player to father figure- was gone. The once selfish-but-well-proven basketball legend had been on his way to becoming a business mogul and an iconic figure in history, but suddenly he was gone.

Now I know I’m not the only one who had this type of experience when witnessing the death of Kobe. Shortly after he died, my article “To Us, He Was Superman” told how much of an impact he had on Asia and the world at large. However, those who continued to follow the NBA and international sports after his death would soon see how much impact Kobe had on the rest of the world. Tributes flowed out of a hurting collective heart and even impacted the social media and global presence of the NBA. For example, when the NBA restarted in early October of 2020, sales of Lakers jerseys far surpassed jerseys from all other teams. In the world of a post-Lakers Championship, it would show that tributes went above and beyond, as even the championship rings given to the Lakers had a hidden gem: a mamba beneath each player’s number, and a compartment that showed the legacy of all the retired Lakers jerseys, with highlights to Kobe’s numbers “8” and “24”.

Even today, tributes are being unveiled, such as at the House of Kobe in Valenzuela, Philippines, where the 17th Laker Championship Banner will be raised, “Gigi’s Crib,” an expansion to the House of Kobe dedicated to Kobe’s daughter who also died in the helicopter crash will debut, and an art gallery/program will be unveiled starting at 8:24 am January 26th, Philippine time.

I still find myself from time to time trying to figure out how Kobe would have thought about life in a post-basketball career. He talked about distancing himself from it for a while, until Gianna became completely wrapped into the world of basketball as well. His player-tree, the network of players who learned from him and stuck close to him was deep, and a majority of those players are now young stars in the NBA and WNBA.

To say he ever left feels untrue, even though it is. It’s been a year since the initial shock, but I, and probably many others, still feel the sting. Rest in Peace Kobe, we still miss you.


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