On January 26, 2020, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others passed away, leaving the NBA and the world in tears and at a loss for words.
However, Bryant’s legacy and memory live on through the conversations he had and the influence he bestowed upon fans. Through various interviews and clips, here are some of the past conversations between the NBA star and various people in his life who were inspired by him and supported him through thick and thin.
January 26, 2020, a Day Nobody in the NBA Will Ever Forget
To say that Kobe Bryant influenced the sport of basketball does not do his legacy any justice. Bryant was talented, passionate, and spirited (with teammates and opponents) on the court. Kobe never stopped working and always wanted to improve something.
Not until after he was gone were fans able to see what else Bryant was. He was an inspiration. NBA Legends and Stars share their moments with Kobe that has stayed with them to this day.
While it is true that Kobe was tough on his teammates, he ultimately wanted to motivate people to do their best. He was a team player through and through, wanting those closest to him to reach their full potential.
His generosity was never more evident than at his basketball clinics for young people and children. Several of the nation’s best young shooting guards attended the Kobe Bryant Nike Skills Academy because they wanted to learn the game from him.
The “Mamba Mentality”
What is the “Mamba Mentality?” Many fans of Bryant and members of the media who covered his career believe it is about being very competitive and completely driven to beat your opponent. Wrong. It’s for personal and inner growth.
In his own words, Kobe said, “to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. It’s a constant quest to try to do better today than you did yesterday.”
Kobe Was A Champion For The WNBA And Women’s Basketball
Kobe loved the game of basketball and wanted nothing more than to share his passion with anyone willing to learn. Bryant was regularly in attendance at the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks games.
Bryant recognized the talent of female players and showed them respect not ordinarily given by men who watch basketball. He worked informally with Sparks players to help improve their skills and acted as an advisor to the team. Bryant worked with women on all levels of the sport.
DeMar DeRozan Got Bit By the “Mamba Mentality”
NBA superstar DeMar DeRozan was born in Compton, California. He grew up idolizing Kobe and attended his 2007 skills academy. DeRozan patterned his game after the Mamba and even wears Bryant’s signature basketball shoes during games.
“My imagination and my foundation started from Kobe…Just watching him give me that imagination as a kid to want to shoot a fadeaway. To want to learn to pull up. To want to rock a ‘fro. It started from that.”
DeRozan Believes “Everything, Everything, Came From Him.”
DeRozan spoke admirably about Bryant’s work ethic both on and off the court, going from his gym in Thousand Oaks, California, to play at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The humility DeRozan prepares and performs with to this day comes from lessons with Bryant. “Everything I learned came from Kobe. Everything. Take Kobe away; I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have love. I wouldn’t have passion, the drive. Everything, everything, came from him.”
Tiger Woods And Kobe Bryant Started Their 20-Year Run Together
In 1996, Tiger Woods was at the start of his professional golf career, and Kobe Bryant was drafted into the NBA. The majority of the 2000s saw both athletes dominate their respective sports and climb to the peak of their abilities.
Of his relationship with Kobe at the time, Woods said he had a feeling like he “really connected” with Bryant “more on the mental side…the prep, how much it takes to be prepared.”
While Others Doubted Steph Curry, Kobe Believed In Him
Stephen Curry is one of the NBA’s brightest stars, but it was not always the case. Curry faced doubt about staying healthy and whether his slight frame would endure an NBA career. Not Kobe Bryant. Bryant recognized Curry’s talents when he was in college at Davidson and offered this advice “Don’t force things. Just take what the defense gives you.”
Getting recognition from a legend like Kobe gave Curry the confidence that overflows in his game today.
Kobe Helped Influence The Women’s Game Of Basketball
Kobe had four daughters named Natalia, Bianka, Capri, and Gianna, the latter of whom sadly passed away alongside her father. Bryant took particular interest in Gianna’s desire to play basketball.
Once Gianna expressed her commitment to training and wanting to learn, Kobe took control of the reigns. Bryant served as a coach and mentor to Gianna’s teams but made the time to offer any tidbits of wisdom that he had to her teammates if they were interested.
Lebron James Regrets Being Kobe’s Rival And Not His Disciple
When Kobe was at the peak of his prime, Lebron James was just scratching the surface of his talents and superstardom. During that period, NBA fans would wonder out loud which of the two players was better.
Comparisons between them ranged from the number of championships to their legacies as Lakers players. All of this happened before either of them had finished playing. What James desired above all else and regrets today is not seeking Kobe’s mentorship.
Lebron Vs. Kobe Is What NBA Fans Wanted, But Not Lebron
While the world thirsted for Kobe Bryant and Lebron James to be at each other’s throats, Lebron wanted Kobe’s blessing. After playing his first two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team Bryant spent his whole career with, James reflected on a meeting that was supposed to be shortly after his signing.
Schedule conflicts between them, unfortunately, never created the opportunity for the two stars to get together before it was too late.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “Kobe Was Such An Athlete.”
Lakers and NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar scored the most points ever. Jabbar won five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and has numerous NBA records associated with him, yet his admiration for Kobe Bryant is what he talks fondly about.
“Many professional athletes are admired, praised, and cheered by the public for their inspiring athletic prowess…But some athletes are so special that they represent more than their athletic achievements. Kobe Bryant was such an athlete.”
Neymar And The Soccer World Honored Kobe’s Memory
Many athletes, like Brazilian soccer star Neymar, paid tribute on the day of Bryant’s death or the first game after. The PSG star wore a custom-made soccer jersey bearing the number 24 that Kobe played with.
“I met Kobe personally, and the times he came to Paris. When you meet the person behind the athlete, it creates a different relationship, and with Kobe, it was very special. Sports and society lost a great guy.”
Jay Williams “I’m Willing To Work Harder Than You!”
“This guy’s still working out? It looks like he was in a dead sweat when I got there,” Williams said. “That game, he drops 40 on us. After the game is over, I’m like, ‘I have to ask this guy; I have to understand why he works like that.’ After the game, I’m like, ‘Hey Kobe, why were you in the gym for so long?'”
“He was like, ‘Cause I saw you come in, and I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, that I’m willing to work harder than you,'” Williams said.
NOT Wanting To Be Like Mike
Kobe’s favorite NBA player growing up was Michael Jordan. Bryant’s ferocity and painful attention to detail were inspired by the former Chicago Bulls legend. Kobe learned everything he could from studying Jordan’s every move.
He watched intently and marveled over Jordan’s proper shooting mechanics, strong footwork, defensive positioning, and relentless mid-range jump-shooting display. Bryant showed toughness and competitiveness rivaled only by Jordan. He once said, “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.”
While Other Players Partied, Kobe Was Putting In Work
Nobody matched Kobe’s intensity when it came to basketball. His work ethic and dedication had him constantly working to improve his game. Compared to Bryant, most former teammates and opponents often remarked about feeling lazy about their progress.
Kobe would be in the gym at 4 am, an hour when most young players his age were returning from partying in the clubs. He occasionally joined teammates at parties, but only if they agreed to work out with him the next morning at 4 or 5 am.
Bryant Was A Star Among Stars
The loss of Kobe Bryant shook more than just the sports community. Several music artists and Hollywood actors expressed their condolences for Bryant’s widow Vanessa and his surviving children via social media.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio said on his Twitter account after learning about Bryant’s death, “Kobe was truly larger than life, a legend. May he and all those who lost their lives today rest in peace—love, and condolences to his family. LA will never be the same.
Kobe’s Impact Was Presidential
Former U.S. President Barack Obama is a huge basketball fan, and when news of Bryant’s death emerged, Obama took to Twitter to express his condolences for the basketball star.
Obama said, “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.”
After hanging up his ball shoes, Kobe embarked on several independent projects outside of playing basketball, like producing movies.
In 2017, with the help of director and animator Glen Keane, Bryant released and narrated the animated feature, Dear Basketball. The film was based on Kobe’s letter in the Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015, in which he announced his retirement. Dear Basketball would earn Bryant a different kind of award than he was used to, an Oscar.
Kobe’s legacy will forever be linked to the city of Los Angeles and the Lakers. Bryant inspired everyone who ever came into contact with him. David Fizdale, a former coach of Kobe’s, said, “The Lakers are the heartbeat of LA, and Kobe Bryant was the blood running through it.
Although his playing career lasted 20 years, all with the same team (the Los Angeles Lakers), his effect on legends, celebrities, and fans still lives on today.