Remembering An All-Time Great: Celebrity Tributes To Kobe Bryant
As the world’s best sporting stars are prone to do, their legacy extends beyond the arenas they frequent and becomes something larger than sport itself. After being invited into the living rooms of fans across the world through TV screens and laptop streams, their personality is a familiar one. And even after they’ve left the sport, their jersey number continues to be one emblazoned on clothing – even on skin.
That Kobe Bryant was such a player is an understatement. The basketball superstar had a record-breaking career with the LA Lakers after being drafted to the NBA directly out of high school in 1996. For the 2007-8 season, he was the league’s Most Valuable Player, before being anointed MVP of the 2009 and 2010 finals series, and scoring a second-highest-ever 81-point game in 2006. Before retiring in 2016, Bryant also helped Team USA secure two Olympic medals.
During his career, Bryant earned the nickname Black Mamba, which later went on to become his brand as he continued to work hard off the court and pursue other endeavours. Many will remember his 2018 Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball, a reflection not only of his love of the game but his passion for storytelling. As Magic Johnson articulated after Bryant’s retirement, “There will never be another Kobe Bryant. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest that has ever played. I put him up there right below Michael Jordan as the two greatest scorers I’ve ever seen probably in the history of the game.”
It’s a statement that continues to resonate and after news broke Sunday about Bryant’s death, the world is now left reeling. Fans are in mourning, while families and friends grieve for loved ones lost in the helicopter crash that killed nine people. The 41-year-old Bryant died in the crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and a group of seven others, all making their way to a basketball academy where Bryant was to coach his daughter’s team.
Those in the sport were quick to express their grief for the tragic passing of Bryant and his daughter. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and countless other stars all paid tribute to the basketball legend. Michael Jordan’s statement read, “He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken. pic.twitter.com/X2vF0M0a1u— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 26, 2020
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal also paid tribute to the star, releasing a special episode of The BIG Podcast with Shaq. In it, Shaq revisits excerpts from his 2015 interview with Bryant, which saw the pair end their longtime feud.
As NBA games continued over the weekend, players, coaches and teams continued to pay their respects to Bryant and his family. Fighting tears, Kawhi Leonard said, “Knowing him personally, I know he would have wanted me to come out here and try to ball and still just be great and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”
Former President Barack Obama expressed his sympathies, tweeting: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.”
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
And at the Grammy Awards, artists declared their love for the basketball star and his daughter. The night was dedicated to the NBA star, with Alicia Keys belting out “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday” in the show’s opening, alongside Boyz II Men. Addressing the crowd, Keys said: “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now. We’re literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe built.”
Bryant’s jersey was also worn during numerous performances, including an Aerosmith and Run DMC show of “Living on the Edge” and “Walk This Way” and Lil Nas X’s ensemble remix of “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, BTS, Diplo, Mason Ramsey, Young Thug and Nas.
I'm so sad and stunned right now. In Staples Arena, where Kobe created so many memories for all of us, preparing to pay tribute to another brilliant man we lost too soon, Nipsey Hussle. Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 26, 2020
"Today, all of my little problems I thought that were as big as the world were gone." Watch Lizzo's emotional #GRAMMYs speech https://t.co/cQuPZSmrvB pic.twitter.com/LJpxFOur9y— Variety (@Variety) January 27, 2020
The world is in mourning, and will be for a long time. But both Bryant and his daughter will never be forgotten and leave behind a legacy not just of incredibly sporting talent, but strong work ethic, an inspiring dedication, and most importantly: the love of family.