Last night, about 14 hours before Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter died tragically in a helicopter accident, he congratulated LeBron James for passing him on the all-time scoring list. He acknowledged James for “continuing to move the game forward.”
But this sentiment could just as easily be applied to Bryant himself. He’s been one of the most forward-thinking superstars the NBA has seen, and his legacy will be unforgettable.
Bryant, working with Glen Keane Productions, turned his retirement letter into a short film called “Dear Basketball.” His victory came less than a month after Fox News journalist Laura Ingraham told LeBron James and Kevin Durant to stop criticizing Donald Trump and “shut up and dribble.”
I don’t know if it’s possible. I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble, but I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.
Bryant did much more than dribble. He even did more than win an Oscar. He also spearheaded the ESPN series “Detail.” Bryant would break down elements of the game into fine detail.
Eventually, other greats like Peyton Manning, Nick Saban, and MMA fighter Daniel Cormier would join Bryant’s show.
As our attention spans get shorter and shorter, Kobe zagged where others zigged and took us on a deep-dive into the minds of expert athletes. This trend could continue to grow, providing us with yet another way he’ll continue to move the game forward, even after he’s gone.
We could list off Kobe Bryant’s basketball accomplishments for days, but his career can be summed up in three numbers: 18, 81, and 20.
Bryant joined the league in 1996, just barely an 18-year-old. Fresh out of high school, he was the youngest player in the history of the NBA at that time. It didn’t take him long to stand out among grown men.
At 19, he became the youngest starter in the All-Star game. By age 21, he was winning NBA championships. He would go on to win a whopping five titles, but one of his most memorable on-court moments didn’t happen in the playoffs.
In January 2006, Kobe turned in a game for ages when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. No one had scored that many points since Wilt Chamerblain’s record-setting 100 point night in 1962. No one has scored that many since.
Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson said,
That was something to behold. It was another level. I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen one like that before.
And Bryant accomplished all of his great feats for one team. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years. He’s one of only two players ever to play for one team for at least 20 years.
Kobe was pushing the game forward his entire life. He sums it up best in his retirement letter.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.
Thank you, Kobe Bryant, for giving us all that you had.