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The Legacy of Kobe Bryant
By: Ryan Stein
Growing up as a Timberwolves fan, Kobe Bryant was always a player I loved to hate. For one, the Lakers are a team that Los Angeles took from Minneapolis (I still maintain that 5 of their championships belong to Minnesota.) To compound upon that, every time the Timberwolves faced off against the Lakers, the latter always seemed to have the former's number. Memories of the 2004 Western Conference Finals come to mind, where my Wolves were likely one Sam Cassell injury from finally knocking off the mighty Lakers and reaching the NBA Finals. Shaq and Kobe together was a nightmarish duo for opposing teams and their fans, and they probably would've won 5+ championships together if the two legends had gotten along with each other better.
Kobe was one of the most polarizing athletes not only in basketball, but in sports history. Some had Bryant as the second-best player in NBA history, while others put him just outside of the top-10 (including us here at ICT Zone.) The Black Mamba was so polarizing in large part because of how closely his style of play mirrored that of Michael Jordan. While many loved him for replicating his game after one of the best basketball players ever, he was also derided for being unoriginal (something that admittedly sounds a bit strange, upon reflection.) To this day, no player has managed to match Air Jordan's game as closely as Bryant, which speaks volumes to his legendary work ethic and commitment to the game.
At this point, Kobe Bryant is probably the most well-known basketball player ever. With respect to LeBron James and Michael Jordan, who are also both nearly universally known, neither of them can quite compare to the adulation Kobe received internationally. Being a megastar basketball player in Los Angeles tends to have that effect, but more so than probably any player, Bryant truly introduced and popularized basketball all around the world. Whether or not you consider him to be the best player of his era, there is no denying that he was the face of the league during his prime years, thanks largely to his dynamic, exciting play and the brand he built for himself on and off the court. He also had the benefit of entering the league at a time when games were being televised on cable far more often. Being probably the greatest Laker of all-time, he got all the exposure he could ask for from television, whether it be during games(both in the NBA and at the Olympics), in commercials, being a guest for talk shows, featuring as the cover athlete for NBA video games, and much more. His face was everywhere, and he was a key factor in fostering a generation of kids that grew up thinking basketball was the coolest thing in the world.
In terms of impact to the game, there are precious few players that are on Kobe Bryant's level. Just think of all the people, some of which never watch basketball, who yell out Kobe's name before tossing a crumpled up piece of paper into the trash, or while doing numerous other activities. His "Mamba Mentality" was a significant source of inspiration not just for athletes, but also people living regular everyday lives. Kobe Bryant was a person and brand that truly transcended basketball, and the world lost a true legend on January 26, 2020. Rest In Peace to all the victims of the horrific helicopter accident that took place, and may God bless the friends and families of those people.
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