A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

Four years removed, we still miss you, Mamba and Mambacita

Reflecting on the everlasting legacy of Kobe Bryant
June+14%2C+2020%2C+several+Black+Lives+Matter+protesters+lined+up+in+front+of+the+mural+on+Sunset+Blvd.+and+N.+Martel+Ave.+to+pay+their+respects+to+two+LA+icons+after+marching+to+Los+Angeles+City+Hall.+Rest+in+power+Bean+and+Nip.+
Robbie Doctor
June 14, 2020, several Black Lives Matter protesters lined up in front of the mural on Sunset Blvd. and N. Martel Ave. to pay their respects to two LA icons after marching to Los Angeles City Hall. Rest in power Bean and Nip.

“Everything negative in life – challenges, adversity, criticism – is all an opportunity to rise above it.” – Kobe Bryant

2024, the year of the Mamba.

It feels like only yesterday the entire world stopped as we learned about the helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA where nine people tragically lost their lives including Kobe Bean Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant.

Nowadays, shooting a piece of paper into a trash can and yelling out, “Kobe!” means so much more and brings a tear to some fans’ eyes.

In Los Angeles, a city of stardom, tradition, championship pedigree and cultural diversity, Kobe Bryant was second only to Jesus Christ. This was his city, the Staples Center, now the Crypto.com Arena was the house the Mamba built and his legacy was immortalized and honored by every Angelino and fellow athletes across all sports.

It was easy to hate Kobe, but all of his opponents respected him for his killer instinct, the ultra-competitor he was and the determination and lore he possessed was Jordan-esque.

 

 

But Lakers fans like Sebastian Valdes, a 24-year-old Los Angeles native and current doctoral training program student, have been Lakers fans as long as they could remember. “He was the reason why I fell in love with the Lakers and the sport of basketball,” he said. “Since I started watching, he truly stood out above the rest of his competition.”

His greatness was apparent even to casual fans or those rooting for opposing teams. “You could see in his eyes, the competitiveness, the perseverance through injuries, the winning attitude, the discipline and willingness to push his body to the limit to be the best player he can be,” Valdes said.

That’s Mamba Mentality.

As Kobe has explained, it’s not just something you practice on the court, but translates to real life.

“To sum up what Mamba Mentality is, it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself,” Bryant said. The Hall of Famer then explained it further. “Mamba Mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most.”

 

 

Jan. 22 marked the 18th anniversary of the greatest scoring performance in the modern era of professional basketball – Kobe torching the Toronto Raptors by dropping 81 points, the second-highest points scored total behind the legendary Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points. On his anniversary, Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center, Joel Embiid, scored a 76ers franchise record and career-high 70 points.

Who was Joel’s favorite player growing up? None other than the Black Mamba himself.

 

 

We’ve heard the saying, “more than an athlete.” Kobe embodied that saying to the fullest. He was a global ambassador for the game of basketball, an Oscar-winning director and accomplished writer, a pioneer in bridging countries who previously had little to zero interest in picking up a basketball, a motivator unlike any other, a humanitarian and business savant whose second act was going to be greater than his first.

 

January 26, 2020, despite unideal weather conditions, droves of fans in Los Angeles gathered outside of the Staples Center to mourn the man who embodied their city, their superhero and greatest motivation, Kobe Bean Bryant, hours after learning of the devastating news of his passing. (Robbie Doctor)

 

If you ask any LA native who he was and what he meant to this city, all heads bow down and all tongues confess – he was a legend, an icon, a symbol of hope, a ferocious competitor, but more importantly a son, father, husband and an adoptive native to this city.

Many fans were shocked and devastated because they felt they grew up with this scrawny teenager from Philadelphia seeing him becoming the man, the father, the champion in life he was.

Lifelong Lakers fan and AI marketing specialist Elijah Mendez, 25, recalls several moments involving Kobe as a youth. “Kobe was hands down my favorite athlete and the GOAT (greatest of all time) in my opinion,” Mendez said. “As a kid, I told everyone in the first grade that Kobe was my dad. I basically lived and breathed everything Kobe. From the jerseys to the shoes. To the mentality. That Mamba Mentality was unequivocal to anything I have ever seen.”

I remember vividly where I was when I first heard the news. It was raining and foggy. I said aloud on my way to the barbershop “man I can barely see in front of me.” Chopping it up and talking with fellow Laker fans about LeBron James passing Kobe on the all-time scoring list, I received a text from my ex-girlfriend with a hyperlink that read “Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash” from TMZ and a follow-up text saying “I’m so sorry…”

I immediately broke down into tears and frantically called all my friends hoping this was all just a twisted joke and that I would wake up from this nightmare.

Karlo Sy Su, current ESPN710 Social Media Manager, distinctly remembers where he was when the news first broke.

“I was at church before going to work when I began receiving text messages of the TMZ report,” he said. “I left church early to message sources for confirmation. I began driving furiously to the office and fought through the Grammy Award traffic to get into the office. We immediately planned for special programming and I started interviewing fans and getting their emotional raw reactions. Fans started to build memorials and small vigils in his honor. I went back to the studio and we started reaching out to guests and reporting the latest on the tragedy.”

Although devastated, Sy Su continued to work because that’s what Kobe would’ve done. “After that long unexpected and draining day, I went home feeling numb,” he said. “It wasn’t until the next morning, that the tears hit me and reality set in that Kobe and Gigi passed. I didn’t know how to deal with it aside from what he would’ve wanted – keep working harder.”

Chevon Jordan, a 24-year-old Chicago native, longtime hooper and real estate agent, recalls vividly where she was when she first heard the news.

“When I heard about the news I was at home,” Jordan said. “My best friend at the time texted me saying Kobe passed and I immediately turned on the news. Then I heard that his daughter and seven other lives were taken as well. Although I did not know Kobe or GiGi personally I was absolutely devastated.”

Jordan has watched Bryant play on TV, watched all of his interviews and studied his moves throughout her athletic career. “To be a great defender you have to study your opponent just as much as you do prepare on offense,” she said. As a female hooper, she applauded and appreciated the advocacy Kobe Bryant had for women’s pay and the growth of the WNBA and women’s sports altogether, something Bryant was unable to see through to the end.

 

Bryant’s career was unique – drafted 13th overall straight out of high school and playing 10 years each donning the number 8 and 24, having two Hall of Fame careers in each jersey. (Robbie Doctor)

 

His daughter, Gianna, was a spitting image of her father: the mannerisms down to the biting of the jersey and sucking the sweat out when tired, the patented fadeaway jump shot, the tenacious competitor she was on the court and her unwavering determination and work ethic.

Although she was only 13, you could see the potential dominance she would bring to ladies’ hoops and the greatness oozing from her performances at the Mamba Sports Academy.

 

 

Fans of the game, including non-Laker fans, were devastated by the tragedy. Diego Renteria, a 27-year-old Los Angeles native and current Cal State Long Beach student who grew up a Celtics fan, held the utmost respect and admiration for his longtime nemesis.

“As a Celtics fan in Los Angeles, Kobe was everything in Los Angeles,” Renteria said. “Watching him playing against my Celtics in ‘08 was one of the most memorable moments watching him and then seeing him try to put his Lakers team on his back that entire series was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen from a player. Two years later he gets us back by beating us in the ‘10 finals. He will always be, to me, one of the greatest players I have ever been able to watch.”

 

The iconic Angels of Los Angeles mural of Kobe and Gigi located on 400 W Pico, Downtown Los Angeles, was one of many murals petitioned to be saved. (Robbie Doctor)

 

Matthew Leong, a 26-year-old strategy consultant and Bay Area native lamented this on the adversarial and respectful relationship with Kobe.

“As a born and raised Warriors fan I was told that Kobe and the Lakers were always to be treated as adversaries,” Leong said. “However, as the years progressed that ‘adversarial’ tag had shifted to immense respect. His “Mamba Mentality” was one-of-a-kind and though people say they live by it, no one will ever replicate it because that mentality was uniquely his. As an adult now in my profession, though I will not be able to embody the full ‘Mamba Mentality,’ I constantly push my limits and identify ways to compound consistent hard work as he did.”

Many people, as Leong mentioned, say they live by Mamba Mentality. Oftentimes, people throw that around without understanding the true definition and disrespect his legacy by pretending to have an otherworldly work ethic. “Hopefully one day we can look back with our kids and grandkids and continue to celebrate the legacy of Kobe and pursue the greatness that he achieved in every aspect of life,” Leong said.

Former Golden State Warriors General Manager and current Washington Commanders Board Executive, Bob Myers put it best in an interview on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

“I hate it when people say they have Mamba Mentality. Don’t do that. Nobody should be allowed to say that. You’re not him. I knew him. There was nobody like him.”

 

Various Kobe Bryant magazines and mementos are one of many ways fans remember their idol. (Robbie Doctor)

 

Many members of the media, especially those born or working in Los Angeles, had a tethered relationship with Bryant.

 

 

Karlo Sy Su was one of the few people who saw Kobe and Gigi before his passing. Sy Su, an avid Laker fan growing up, lamented his connection with Kobe.

“I’ll never forget working the Lakers locker room during the Kobe years, especially April 12, 2013, when he tore his Achilles and showed us what the Mamba Mentality is all about,” Sy Su said. “He completed his free throws and stayed to talk to us in the locker room. My cousin caught us smiling together on TV despite it being a tragic night.”

Andres Soto, a 26-year-old freelance writer and former ESPN Production Assistant, reflected on his childhood hero. “Kobe means so much to me,” he said. “As a kid growing up in LA in the early 2000s, some of my earliest memories are watching the Lakers three-peat with Shaq and Kobe. I remember playing basketball with my friends during recess in kindergarten and we would literally fight sometimes over who got to be Shaq and who got to be Kobe.”

Soto’s sentiment about the two-way love and admiration Kobe had for the city and the city had for him epitomizes how much he truly meant to not only Los Angeles but the world. “He loved us fans just as much as we loved him. His mentality to just outwork everybody and dedication to his craft is everything I want to be, and it’s what I strive for to this day. He will be remembered forever.”

Nick Lasley, a 24-year-old doctoral training program student and lifelong Laker fan, believed his mentality carries over in all aspects of life.

“I think for me Kobe is just a motivation to always work and never become too content. Even when he was at his best he’d be in the gym for eight hours if he was having a cold shooting stretch and a lot of people stop trying to grow and improve once they hit a benchmark they set,” Lasley said.

Sy Su, like many others, revered Kobe as a muse, a source of inspiration to achieve greatness, saying “Kobe taught us the importance of his muse. Kobe was my muse as my driving factor in my career to work harder than anybody else,” he said. “He’s a shared idol among my friends, family, and wife so his legacy continues to live on through us.”

Bryant’s legacy reached beyond the basketball court. He was a philanthropist including making over 100 appearances for kids in the Make-a-Wish foundation and participating in a fundraising effort for Stand Up To Cancer in 2012 that raised more than $80 million for cancer research and founding the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, originally named VIVO, which has raised millions of dollars since 2007 for international enrichment experiences for minority college students and provided domestic and international youth scholarships for the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy.

 

 

Furthermore, he is immortalized in hip-hop as one of the greatest rappers of our generation, Lil Wayne, who wrote and rapped the song “Kobe Bryant” in 2008 and re-released a 2:24 version shortly after his passing as a tribute to one of his favorite players ever. Bryant’s budding career as an author and scriptwriter started with an achievement many actors spend their entire career chasing – winning an Oscar for best short film in 2017 titled “Dear Basketball.”

As Kobe admitted and fans pointed out, it’s something that Michael Jordan hasn’t and won’t ever do.

His name, now hanging in the rafters as No. 8 and No. 24, will now be cemented as one of the greatest to don the purple and gold with his statue ceremony unveiling set for Feb. 8 of this year as the Los Angeles Lakers host the defending world champion Denver Nuggets. The date was selected to honor both Gigi’s and Kobe’s numbers which they wore.

His wife, Vanessa, announced the honor on social media with more details to come.

 

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The words of Spectrum SportsNet Lakers broadcaster Bill Macdonald after he shot a pair of free throws seconds after rupturing his Achilles tendon encapsulates what all of Laker Nation respects, admires and loves about Kobe Bryant.

“Don’t ever question the heart, the emotion, the grit, the tenacity of that man.”

Mamba out, but never forgotten. Rest easy Mamba and Mambacita.

 

April 13, 2016, Section 327, Row 8, Seat 24, was where I witnessed the greatest crescendo to cap off a sports career, Kobe dropping 60 points in his final game of an illustrious 20-year career donning the purple and gold against the Utah Jazz. (Robbie Doctor)
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Robbie Doctor, Managing Editor
Robbie Doctor is the Managing Editor.

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