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“Kobe!”

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“Kobe!”

Zach Janis

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Kobe,

It isn’t often in a city so loud that a moment of silence is demanded. An empire of four million people, so used to moving through the tragedies of life, brought to a grinding halt on one fateful Sunday morning. We are weeks removed, yet the weight and solemness still weighs on us all.

To some, you were an opponent that couldn’t be beaten on the hardwood. You were revered by those who dared to face you, and you were talked about with some of the greatest to ever do it. You fought for the rights of the current NBA player in a constant pursuit of legacy, focusing on the beauty and craft of the game you dominated.

You played through injuries, hardships and illnesses for two decades, and were a highlight reel during all of it. You dropped 81 points in the middle of the most defensive eras basketball had ever seen. The Lakers won five titles with you at the helm, surviving through the ebbs and flows of championship windows and shifting supporting roles. There wasn’t one buzzer-beater or game-tying jumper that was too big for you. This entire speech could be about your on-court career, but we all know that the Mamba Mentality is a lifestyle.

Off the court, you were a different kind of star. You founded a charity with your wife, Vanessa, with the pure hope of helping inner-city LA youth “kick butt.” You started a youth soccer team in Orange County to help build the next generation of leaders and promote health and fitness across Los Angeles. You traveled the country, promoting academic success through After School All-Stars. You gave over $1 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. You donated books to LeBron James’ I Promise School. You took records and souls on the court, but all you did off of it, was give. You embodied everything you stood for just as much off the court as you did on it.

NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Nobody transcended not only the game, but sports itself, like you did. You couldn’t be seen courtside without your daughter, Gianna, by your side, teaching her the fundamentals and strategies that would lead her to dominate in her own basketball life, serving as an inspiration to Women’s Basketball players across the world. There were loads of professional, well-paid athletes that couldn’t go more than a few sentences without mentioning you, a 13-year-old, as an inspiration.

You were both leaders, teachers, and role models to not only your teammates, but to millions of the people who now find themselves lost.

There is an irreplaceable hole in the culture of Los Angeles and the culture of basketball, and that’s only a testament to what you meant to all of us. Yes, we will miss the hell out of you, but we carry on with everything you taught us. And that’s what I think we should remember about you. We had to be there to see the way you torched the game of basketball, but we can all take lessons from the kind of leader, philanthropist, and Girl Dad that you were.

So one day, when the next generation of kids asks us, “Why do you shout ‘Kobe!’ every time you throw away a piece of paper?” We can tell them about an icon.

With love, for all of us,

Zach.

K-UTE Radio/University of Utah does not own any images in this piece. 

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