How Do We Remember Kobe Bryant?
By Eleanor Sherry - Sports Editor
Content Warning: Sexual Assault
Thousands of people have expressed their sorrow for the loss of Kobe Bryant after news surfaced of his death on January 26th due to a helicopter crash that ended his life, along with his 13-year-old daughter’s and seven other passengers’.
Nonetheless, reactions to his passing have been mixed, from a petition on change.org to make him the official logo of the NBA, to a Washington State high school principal being put on leave for saying that Kobe’s death was ‘deserved’. It seems that much of the reception of Kobe Bryant’s death requires a deeper understanding of his life.
I couldn’t believe it. Your stomach drops, and then you find out it wasn't just him, it was his daughter, and there were seven other people in the flight too.
“He was born in Philadelphia, and then he and his family moved over to Europe,” explains Emery Lewis, facilities manager at PARC, Dawson’s sports and recreation center. “His father was a basketball player for a league in Europe, so Kobe grew up around basketball. He got drafted to the NBA right out of high school and played when he was nineteen.”
Brian Sherry, longtime basketball fan and former local player, says that Kobe’s public reception was strong out of the gate: “The first time I heard about him, I’d heard that there was a new player who was up and coming. At the time, Michael Jordan was considered the best player in the NBA, and they said that this player had the potential to be the next Michael Jordan.”
As point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant’s career spanned two decades and inspired many basketball fans on and off the court. “He had tenacity, perseverance, and endurance, and I took some of that from him into my day to day life, so that's why I miss him a lot,” says Lewis, “He was a great player, and a great person overall.”
People reacted to his death with a combination of disbelief and anguish. “I didn’t think it was real,” says Dawson Student John Gertler. “It came out on TMZ first, which is a bit of a sketchy source, but then I searched it up immediately and I saw that it was real, and I was like, I couldn’t believe it. Your stomach drops, and then you find out it wasn't just him, it was his daughter, and there were seven other people in the flight too.”
Despite the surge of public outcry, there are some who have their reservations about mourning Bryant due to a sexual assault case that ended in a public apology by Bryant to the woman in question and an alleged settlement of over 2.5 million dollars out of court.
Opinions on how this should affect the public's perception of Bryant are mixed. Dawson student Jordan Guitard says that actions like that ultimately outweigh the positives. “I try not to be too black and white about it,” Jordan says, “I just - when you get to the level of like something like a sexual assault, there aren’t really a lot of good things you can do, or like a lot of influential things you can do, to counteract that.”
Others, like Dawson student Daisy Stilwell, believe that both can coexist. “You can take how someone influenced society and separate that from who they are as people. Kobe was a huge role model for young black people in the states, and that is super important. You can separate it from the horrible things he did in his life.”
After his retirement from the NBA, Bryant would go on to create a foundation with his wife Vanessa to help impoverished youth through scholarships, and a separate foundation in China to raise money for education and health programs. He even won an academy award in 2018 for his animated short film, Dear Basketball, the first African American to do so.
A public memorial will take place on February 24th at the Staples Center in LA for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as the seven others who lost their lives.