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On Sunday January 26 the Basketball world, and the sporting world at large, lost one of its true greats, but more than that, lost a loving father alongside one of his daughters.
Kobe Bean Bryant was more than his achievements on the basketball court. His drive and ambition led the way for many to follow and believe that they could aspire to be great at whatever they chose to be.
Born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia to parents Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant, Kobe’s father was a former NBA player who started in hometown Philadelphia, so Kobe had good pedigree. In 1996 he was picked 13th in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, but a prearranged trade meant that he was officially a Los Angeles Lakers player. He would be for his entire career spanning 20 years.
After only starting a handful of games in his first two seasons, Bryant became a regular starter in the 1998-99 campaign. The season after was the first season of a Threepeat as the Lakers dominated the NBA at the turn of the millennium. A combination of legendary coach Phil Jackson and centre Shaquille O’Neal made sure that the Lakers, already the League’s most glamorous team, became the team to watch again.
Two years later the Bryant-O’Neal partnership was broken up when the latter was traded to Miami. Determined to show that Bryant could still win without his foil he went on and proved as much by winning two more NBA Championships, back to back in 2009 and 2010. This coming after two seasons where he led the league in scoring.
The latter part of his career was curtailed by differing injuries, playing just six times in 2013-14 and half a season in his penultimate playing year. His farewell season in 2015-16 was practically a farewell tour to every arena he played in, although he did play this down. In his final game on April 13 he scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz in a 101-96 win. He outscored the Jazz 23-21 in the last period. Ironically the win couldn’t stop the Lakers having their worst season ever on record winning only 17 of their 82 games.
Bryant played in two Olympic Games for the USA, in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, helping to win Gold medals on each occasion. As well as the five NBA Championships, of which he was the series MVP twice, he was named in the NBA All-Star team 18 times, winning the game MVP four times.
After his retirement he went into several business ventures, and in 2018 came another huge milestone success. He became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film with his film Dear Basketball. He also released a book titled The Mamba Mentality: How I Play which was a look back on his playing career.
His death in a helicopter accident in the hills of Calabasas was met with shock and immediate grief. Alongside Bryant in the accident was his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore, aged 13, a promising basketball player in her own right. In total nine people died in the accident.
Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa Laine, and three daughters, Natalia Diamante, Bianka Bella and Capri Kobe.