The true legacy of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant

(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. Work ethic

When Bryant came to the NBA, fringe players knew they had to work hard to stay in the league. But most stars relied entirely upon, or nearly so, on their talent. Seldom had a player with Kobe’s God-given ability worked as diligently or relentlessly at his craft as Bryant did.

Kobe’s obsession with being the best he could be contributed heavily to his feud with Shaquille O’Neal, who preferred to take a break in the summer while Bryant worked ever harder. Had they been able to forge a compromise, the Lakers might well have won another title or two.

Most fans know that Bryant’s father played in the NBA. Joe “Jellybean” Bryant had a modest, undistinguished eight-year career, averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. Kobe felt that Dad had somewhat squandered his considerable talent and that his achievements never equaled his capabilities. And the younger Bryant was determined not to allow that to happen to him.

Not many know that Kobe’s maternal uncle, “Chubby” Cox, was a star point guard at the University of San Francisco, where he was a hard-working ballhandler, passer and team leader for a squad that won its first 29 games before losing to UNLV in the NCAA tournament. Although Cox later shined in the old Continental Basketball Association, he wasn’t quite good enough to make it in the NBA. But perhaps Cox passed along his “effort” genes to Kobe.

Whatever the reason, in the aftermath of Bryant’s death scores of current, younger athletes said that Kobe was their inspiration as they tried to emulate the hard work for which he was known. That included many NBA stars but also luminaries in other sports like Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and Novak Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players in history.

The legacy of Kobe Bryant must include how he combined his immense talent, the hardest possible work and an indomitable will to win to create a champion. Above all else, he will always be regarded as a winner.