With the shocking death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and 7 other passengers in a helicopter crash, the legend of Kobe Bryant is being recognized everywhere, but it first began in Philly.
Journalist/media contributor OJ Spivey was around when the legend of Kobe Bryant was first starting to take shape as a youngster in Philly.
“The greatness started early for Kobe Bryant. It was evident in him when he was coming up as a young kid in the suburbs of Philadelphia,” explained Spivey. “Philadelphia has produced a lot of great basketball players like Rasheed Wallace, Cuttino Mobley, Kyle Lowry, but when Kobe came along at Lower Marion High school, you just saw the specialness.”
Along with the specialness he oozed, there was also something else there that developed in the city. “One thing that he had was the confidence to be the best and wanted to play with the big boys, and it was a thing here, that you had to earn your stripes in the city,” Spivey said. “Kobe played in the streets, the playgrounds and that’s where he developed his toughness and the early signs of the Mamba mentality.”
Kobe would take that swagger and that mental toughness to the Lakers, as he was traded for on draft night in 1996 by then-Lakers general manager Jerry West. The rest, they say, was history. In 20 years with the Lakers, he won five NBA titles, two scoring titles, one MVP trophy, was on the NBA All-Defense team 12 times, two-time NBA Finals MVP and was a fifteen-time All-NBA selection. And in those two decades, he also became a huge superstar in the NBA, arguably the greatest Lakers player ever and one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.
When he retired, he often talked about the next phase of life and we were seeing that come to fruition, but unfortunately that progress came to a screeching halt when the word spread that Bryant, his 13 year old daughter Gigi, along with seven other people including the helicopter pilot perished in a helicopter crash around 10 am on the West Coast. The loss was heard around the world as athletes and fans alike were in shock and instantly felt sadness and it seemed like the world stood still.
While Kobe is gone, the legacy he left here will live on forever and so will the lessons he taught us all.
Through his life, he taught us the meaning of hard work. If you listen to anyone that talks about him, they will tell you about his insane work ethic. That work ethic and attitude was a part of the Mamba Mentality that he took to everything, meaning with hard work, anything can be achieved.
Along with showing what the ultimate work ethic looked like, he also showed us all that you can always reinvent yourself. Early in Kobe’s career, he was not known as a leader and when Shaq was traded, the franchise was now on his back. From there, he listened and learned how to lead and trust his team and then led the Lakers to two more titles from there, changing the perception of him not being a leader of a team. Along with that reinvention, he also became the man that paid it forward with the Mamba Academy and with working out with current players and teaching them.
Kobe was not only a great basketball player, but he took that determination, ultimate work ethic and ability to reinvent himself to become a great father, husband, businessman and advocate for women’s rights and women in sports. The world not only got robbed of seeing the evolution of his second act, but it got robbed of seeing his daughter carry on his basketball legacy along with families being torn apart by this tragedy.
Many will ask what his legacy is. All you have to do is just listen to the words that many others speak about him.
The words “work ethic” are all over everything. He gave everything his all and for his impact he has had in his career and retirement, he will be missed.
To the Bryant family and the family of those that perished on that Sunday morning, our condolences go out to you all.