By: Kelton Brooks
Tears trickled down the faces of millions on January 26, 2020.
Sure, basketball fans know Kobe, but Kobe Bryant felt intangible to the world as a man they never met.
In August 2020, Orange County supervisors voted in favor of declaring Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day, which comes a day after his would-be 43rd birthday.
The day, Aug. 24, honors the two jersey numbers Bryant wore during his 20-year NBA career. In 2017, he became the first player in NBA history to have two jersey numbers retired by the same team.
Fans, family, players, former players, the entire world celebrated the life and legacy of the player who won five NBA championships during his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Fans first fell in love with the player. If it wasn’t his uncanny ability to knock down contested, circus shots, it was his soul-snatching game winners.
In honor of it being 8/24, here is every game-winner from Kobe Bryant’s NBA career?
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) August 24, 2021
But everyone soon grew close to the man. The “Black Mamba” was tenacious, focused and driven. If the goal is in reach, strike. It is the essence of the “Mamba Mentality.”
The wisdom of Kobe Bryant.
Happy Birthday Mamba ?? pic.twitter.com/8tWFxXSx2I
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 23, 2021
Bryant was and still is a hero to many, especially Nick Eley.
“As a kid, your favorite athletes are some of your first real life superheroes,” said the Mississippi-native in a heartfelt farewell letter to his idol a day after Bryant’s death.
“I was 6 years old when Kobe Bryant debuted in the NBA,” Eley wrote. “I was still young enough to believe in superpowers and a magical passing of the torch when he dropped 55 [points] on Michael [Jordan] in March of 2003. It was as if Mike had taken his mythical basketball from the Space Jam movie and allowed Kobe to absorb his powers through it. … For the kid in me, Kobe had that same power. For whatever he said about being content with being retired and gone from the game, I never thought he COULDN’T, under the right circumstances, place his hands on that mythical ball and regain his powers once again.”
Eley recently got a tattoo to honor one of his heroes: #LongLiveTheBean
— Charles Edward Cheese (@Eley_System) August 17, 2021
Eley even named his dog Kobe.
The helicopter crash that took Bryant’s life also killed Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; Ara Zobayan, 50, and Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Gianna Bryant was everything her father was on the court. Even she didn’t play basketball with the same aggression as her prolific dad, he was still a mighty advocate for the WNBA.
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 23, 2021
Bryant will always be remembered in the world of basketball, in the world of sports and live eternally as a Laker legend.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 24, 2021