On Sunday, January 26, one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash which included his daughter Gianna and seven other people. All nine on board were headed to Mamba Academy where Gianna and her teammates were going to practice. There was visibility issues at the time of the crash, but there has not been an official determination of the cause of crash. 

Kobe played in the NBA for 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers and achieved much of greatness. He won five titles with the team and had many personal achievements as well. He was a legend in the Los Angeles community throughout his career. He would inspire others to be the best at what you do. For him, it was to be the best basketball player of all time. 

I grew up in Los Angeles. I lived outside of L.A. for eight years. Sports started to become a part of my life when I was about six years old. Legends like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West, and many others all wore the Lakers jersey throughout the years but the player that I wanted to see play was Kobe.

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Kobe was at the peak of his career. Winning his fourth and fifth title in 2009 and 2010 and winning MVP in 2008. I was glued to the television when they played home games. I remember watching Kobe average thirty points a game; he would shoot threes from the Lakers logo like it was a free throw.

I was in awe about the talent that he had and I would say that he was one of my favorite players growing up. My first jersey was a Kobe jersey; I would wear that with pride and I would call myself the biggest Kobe fan on the face of the Earth, even though my mother despised him. I remember vividly when the Lakers won the title in 2010. They finished the trophy presentation and my family turned it on to the local news to see the scenes outside. Thousands and thousands of fans were celebrating outside the Staples Center, blocking roads, and not obeying police orders. It turned into mayhem and the celebration became an all nighter. I remember watching fans with all their Kobe jerseys chanting Kobe’s name after they won. My love for Kobe grew after he won his fifth title, and I wanted to be a Lakers fan for life.

However, when there are ups, there are downs. Kobe tore his Achilles in 2013 and the Lakers turned into one of the worst teams in the NBA. As any eleven year old kid would do, I hopped on the bandwagon. The Miami Heat became a dynasty and I became a Heat fan for a little bit. I again changed my team to the Los Angeles Clippers. They were called “Lob City,” with star players like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan. 

When I got older, my mother told me about the mistakes Kobe made in his personal life. I started to change my opinion on Kobe and my mom and I started to despise Kobe because of the things he did off the court when he was young. 

When Kobe announced his retirement, I was a little glad he was retiring. My mom hated it; she thought that he wanted the attention and was selfish for doing the so called “farewell season.” I watched his final game in secret because my mom refused to watch it and told me to turn on something else. After his game, I started to respect him more as a person. 

After his career he did so many great things such as writing children’s books, opening his Mamba Academy to many girls basketball teams and having basketball tournaments, and always being a mentor to the youth. His daughter played on one of the girl teams and Kobe was the coach for the team as well. 

When my mom rushed out the front door to tell me Kobe was killed in a helicopter crash, the first thing that ran through my mind was that this must be fake. Minutes rolled by and many sources confirmed the report. I couldn’t believe it, and I started to remember the countless times watching Kobe in L.A. I became very emotional, and I realized a piece of my childhood was just taken from me.

My mom and I watched most of the interviews which included many friends of Kobe’s and we realized how many lives Kobe impacted throughout his career on and off the court throughout the world, but especially in Los Angeles. My mom told me that she was disappointed that she didn’t see the other side of Kobe. She wished she didn’t despise him as much and respected him for the person he is. 

This tragedy is a lot worse because Kobe’s thirteen-year-olddaughter Gianna was killed in the helicopter crash as well. She had so much to live for and she was on her way to carrying out Kobe’s legacy on the basketball court. She had all of Kobe’s moves, including his famous fade-away shot. She was going to become one of the best women’s basketball players in the world. She was an inspiration to many young girls and she will be missed by many people. 

Kobe was a man of the people on and off the basketball court. He will always be known for his talents on the court, but he inspired so many people to achieve their goals and to do it in the best way possible. Many people are grieving and mourning his loss. But let’s celebrate his accomplishments on and off the court, and tell the many stories that we have of him. He had so much life ahead of him but it was unfortunately cut short. He will still be an inspiration to many generations to come, and his legacy will always live on. 

Editor's Note: Jackson Osborn is a senior at Gov. Livingston High School and is a Sports Writer for The Highlander, Gov. Livingston's school newspaper powered by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.