Why there will never be another player like Kobe Bryant

(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Kobe Bryant was a special player during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers and we won’t see another player like him again.

Kobe Bryant‘s death last month shook the basketball community to its core. Though he retired four years ago, he was still a constant presence. Whether he was making Oscar-winning short films or just taking in a game with his daughter Gigi, Kobe was far too important to the game to remove himself completely.

Kobe Bryant was a basketball deity. The hole left by his untimely passing is so much bigger than can be seen at first glance. This is a void that will never be filled.

Professional basketball players are a rare breed. They are gifted with the size, speed, and raw athleticism that most of us would only dream of having. Out of the nearly eight billion people in the world, only about 450-500 people play in the NBA each year. That’s one out of every 16 million people on the planet. They all got there through a lot of hard work, natural talent, and a little bit of luck.

Every once in a great while, a superstar comes along who dominates those other 499 players night in and night out. They are lauded as a generational talent, breaking records and garnering awards from their rookie year all the way to retirement. These players often are enshrined in the Hall of Fame as some of the greatest of all time.

However, there is a type of player who is even rarer. Not only do they become a superstar on the court, but they also transcend the game of basketball and become a global icon. They inspire millions around the world as the face of the NBA. In my lifetime, there have been only three players who broke that barrier: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.

Coupled with their tremendous physical gifts, these three are the only players the world has ever seen with the right combination of tenacious work ethic, unquenchable desire for victory, and an almost unhealthy obsession with personal improvement. Even in these categories, however, Kobe was in a league of his own.

Jordan’s best years were before my time, and I got to watch LeBron come up through high school and grow into the player he is today. For most of my life, though, Kobe was in a Lakers uniform. The first jersey my dad ever bought for me was just a blank purple and gold mesh tank, no Lakers logo, no number.

But I always said it was a Kobe jersey.

The stories about Kobe’s insane work ethic have become mythical in the basketball community. There are amazing game performances, like the 81-point explosion against the Raptors or the 60-point spectacle in his final game. There are also the moments where Kobe just seemed superhuman, like the free throws he took after tearing his Achilles.

The first three-peat with Shaq, winning two more without him to prove the doubters wrong, the multiple game-winners over every other star in the league. Kobe gave us so many amazing moments to remember him by.

But that’s just the basketball side of things. Kobe was so much bigger than just basketball.

I’ve been trying to write this article for a week. Bryant’s passing is what inspired me to rekindle my dream of being a sports writer, so I thought it fitting that the first thing I published should be about him. I wanted to do Kobe justice and everything I wrote felt like it wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t while watching the memorial for Kobe and his daughter Gigi being held in the Staples Center, the house that Kobe built, that I was able to figure out what I wanted to say.

Thousands of people gathered in that arena to listen to the stories of Kobe’s close friends and family, and to celebrate the life of not just one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but one of the most incredible human beings to ever live.

A man that everyone there loved and respected, who touched their lives in such a way that they all came together to remember him one last time. Many of the people in attendance, and the millions watching around the world, had never met Kobe, yet every single one of them felt his loss.

The rest of the world has been showing their appreciation for Kobe nonstop since the news first broke. Murals are popping up everywhere, courts are being dedicated, and players from all kinds of backgrounds are paying their respects to Kobe in their own ways, whether it be writing his name on their sneakers or taking 24-second shot clock violations. We all knew that Kobe was one of the most popular athletes on the planet, but the reaction that the world has had is something I truly don’t believe we will ever see again. That’s how special Kobe was.

I think Michael Jordan said it best during his speech:

“When Kobe died, a little piece of me died, too. And as I look in this arena, and across the globe, a piece of you died.”

I haven’t been on this earth for a long time, but I have never beheld a greater scene of people coming together than what I have witnessed in the past month since the world lost the piece of us that was Kobe Bryant.

For as long as there’s a ball of paper and a trash can left lying around, the Black Mamba’s legacy will carry on and inspire generations beyond.

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And that is why there will never be another Kobe Bryant.