Twitter provided shock, confusion, tributes, and sadly confirmation Sunday that Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, and Alyssa Altobelli passed away in a helicopter crash. More names are still being released from the incident that continues to dominate national news. For those ages 18-25, Kobe Bryant holds meaning. This is my personal feeling on the meaning behind my generations love for #24.
I first believe my generation loves Kobe because we didn’t know #8 Kobe all that well. I was two when Kobe got his first title, and only eight when he scored 81. Going from high school to the NBA isn’t unfathomable to me anymore, maybe Kobe did need Shaq, and apparently Kobe took someone to prom named Brandy? The NBA lifestyle is a swirl and it doesn’t shock me to know Kobe has issues in his first eight years. I know little to nothing of Bryant’s sexual assault case, I was five. Bryant changed to #24 before 2006-2007, and that is when Bryant resonated with me.
Bryant pulls up and nails a bank shot over my then favorite player, Dwayne Wade. This was 2009 and should take you back to the middle of Kobe’s second title run. Number 24 seems like the legend. Kobe was the number 1 guy winning titles for the Lakers no debate. Bryant’s Lakers dominated the West by beating T-Mac and Yao’s Rockets, Nash’s Suns, Carmelo in his prime, and a well-constructed Jazz team. While Bryant smoked Orlando to get back on top, he conquered and renewed a rivalry with Celtics. Two titles in three years, two Finals MVPs, two Gold Medals, and a 2008 MVP. This stretch is why number 24 can’t help but be my main image of Kobe Bryant.
Older Kobe was interesting too. Rising teams used Kobe and the Lakers as a measuring stick for success. I remember watching Oklahoma City defeat the Lakers in five games in the 2012 playoffs. As Russ and KD created their first signature playoff win, Kobe and the Lakers let us know who had next. The Cavs post Lebron rebuild saw Kyrie Irving emerge as the future. Irving impressed Bryant in 2012 USA camp, providing a now viral video of the two playfully trash talking and hooping. That winter Kyrie dueled Kobe in a memorable Cleveland victory. Kyrie called Kobe right after the champagne flowed for the Cavs in 2016, a career highlight for Irving meant calling his mentor.
More and more I noticed the love players of the next generation had for Kobe. The player many grew up watching was now getting one on one time in his retirement. This summer Bryant welcomed countless players including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis to workout with him at his Mamba Academy Gym. Kobe almost knew exactly how to give to the next generation. Bryant was headed to the Mamba Academy for his daughter’s game. Gianna Bryant was 13 and clearly had the love her father did for the game.
Number 24 was a winner. Commercials, shoes, games and life after basketball saw Kobe succeed and inspire. Ages 18-25 know that Kobe is basketball royalty. The man who challenged Jordan’s legacy, came pretty damn close. I know what I saw, 24 is gold.
Sunday was tragic and is the most shocking death of a celebrity for me. I explained why my generation mourns Kobe so hard, but others lost their lives. It’s sad to see more names released in this accident and I pray for all those close to the lives lost.
Rest easy Kobe, your legend is safe with us.