Now that the historic career of Kobe Bryant is done, let’s take a look at the legacy that the “Black Mamba” left behind. People have doubted whether he had a team-first attitude and if his body would hold up at the end of his gut-wrenching career. But you can’t doubt the effort he put into every single day on and off the court and the influence he has had on the game of basketball for the younger generation.
Bryant had a non-traditional basketball upbringing. He was born in Philadelphia, but moved to Italy when he was six. He joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) right out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, skipping college. Bryant was drafted number thirteenth overall to the Charlotte Hornets but was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers soon after. In his twenty seasons in the NBA, he never left the Lakers.
Bryant started out his career in 1996, developing and learning how to cope with the NBA as an eighteen year old. He broke his wrist in a pickup game in Philadelphia so he missed all of the training camp. Bryant’s coach at the time, Del Harris, thought he still needed time to develop into a starter, so he came off the bench most of his rookie season. During his third season in the NBA, he started every game and helped his team reach the second round of the playoffs. The next season, Shaquille O’Neal came to Los Angeles and built a short term dynasty with Bryant. The two had a great combination in the triangle offense run by their head coach, Phil Jackson. O’Neal would occupy near the basket, creating mismatches and double teams while Bryant would occupy everywhere from outside the painted area. This duo won three championships together and secured Kobe Bean Bryant as a star in the NBA.
After tension between O’Neal and Bryant, O’Neal left the team, causing people to doubt whether Bryant could ever win another championship without another superstar. Early on, the doubters proved correct. The Lakers did not make the playoffs in their first season without O’Neal, and the next two years they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
When it seemed like it was a long shot for the team to get back to the finals, the Lakers’ front office signed Pau Gasol. This move turned out great for the Lakers because after two seasons with Gasol and a few other key additions, Bryant and the Lakers returned to the finals once again. Even though the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics, it seemed like Bryant was heading in the right direction to grab more championships. The notion proved correct when Bryant and the Lakers won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010; by winning a title as the only superstar on his team, he cemented his legacy as one of the all time greats the NBA has had in its league.
Bryant has not just been an idol for kids on the court but also a role model for kids off the court and around the community. In 2002 , he and his wife started the Vivo Foundation, also known as the the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which praises education and helps men and women serving overseas. The foundation raises awareness and money to help struggling communities become stronger through educational purposes.
People throw the word around that Bryant is a selfish person who only wants what is best for himself. However, they do not see the work he puts in to provide kids with educational opportunities, as well as a healthy and prosperous life through his fundraisers and foundations. So for the fans out there who hate Bryant, you can hate the work he does on the court, but you have to respect the work he does off the court for the future generations of the world.
The final years of Bryant’s career were pretty rough. He dealt with bad injuries over and over again, including a ruptured Achilles tendon and multiple ankle problems. In addition, his team performed poorly and either barely made the playoffs or did not at all. This last year was a very hard time for Bryant. He wanted to retire as a winner but this was not the case; Bryant and his team had the second worst record in the NBA. When he announced he was retiring from the game of basketball, he got a standing ovation after almost every away game. But Bryant saved his best basketball for last, dropping 60 points in his last ever NBA game in a win against the Utah Jazz. This is the vintage Bryant we are used to, the one who had jaw-dropping performances on the court as well as outstanding work within his community.
We will always remember the Mamba’s outstanding career, in which he won five championships. Bryant has been the person who most closely emulated Michael Jordan’s career and has been a role model for young stars in the league today. There will never be another Bryant, and Bryant will never be forgotten.