"Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun."
Continuing with the exploration of the light vs darkness symbol that comes up often in Act III, Scene II of Romero and Juliet, the latter claims that should she never see Romeo again following his banishment from Verona after killing Tybalt, he would become such a bright light in the night sky that his beauty would surpass that of the daylight-bringing sun.
As we sit here and try to make sense of what happened to the now-deceased Kobe Bryant, who was taken from us at the age of 41 in a freak helicopter accident alongside eight others, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant among them, that metaphor rings true for how Bryant's legacy will be perceived. Even among his contemporaries and the miasma of inconsequentiality that makes up the NBA sky, Bryant has, does, and will continue to shine bright.
When we first laid eyes on Kobe, he was nothing more than a brief flash of light that was quickly drowned out when he came into the league at the young age of 17. He helped his legacy grow through a heavy application of one of the most unifying traits known to humankind. Hard work.
Regardless of creed, race, religion, morals, and upbringing, working hard at and dedicating yourself to the point of obsession to a cause you're passionate about is one way to make yourself grow into something that people will remember. Few, if any, truly internalize that concept, and Kobe pick up on that at suck a young age.
From the concrete of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and the unforgiving Los Angeles media that can chew up 18-year-olds and spit them out, Bryant blossomed into a rose. Just a few years after the beginning of the 2000s, Kobe had become a three-time champion, a regular All-Star, an All-Defensive team player and one of the most recognizable players in all of basketball. By the mid 2000s, he picked up two scoring titles, an 81 point game, and an MVP.
Listing his statistical accomplishments is all well and good, but numbers in a box score not how you build a legacy. You build it by becoming such a beloved, ubiquitous figure that generations that come after you look to your life and career as a source of inspiration and/or mimicry. When Michael Jordan retired, Kobe became the marquee attraction in the league, and kids everywhere took notice.
His unparalleled dexterity in the air and ability to create his own shots was replicated, in much lesser quality, 99.9 percent of the time in gyms and driveways across the country. His scowl, symbolic of an unflinching, unyielding resolve to run through mountains in pursuit of his goal, became the standard attitude for those pursuing excellence in the game of basketball.
When basketball players and non-basketball players alike tossed a crumbled up piece of paper into the garbage can, there was only one name they were calling out.
The end of his basketball career could have easily taken some of the luster off of his legacy. The Lakers kept losing, he was banged up in perpetuity, and his stats went into the gutter, at least for someone of his stature. That didn't phase Kobe one bit. He would go out onto the court on basically one leg against players who don't remember the NBA without Kobe as a legendary superstar in it, and still do his damndest to carry a pitiful Lakers team to wins.
During his final game, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were playing simultaneously, as they tried to set the NBA record for wins in a season. Not a soul on the planet cared. They were fixed on Bryant, half the player he once was, turning the clock back, burning whatever energy he had left in his body, and hanging 60 points on the Utah Jazz.
In his post-basketball life, when plenty of stars and role players alike alter or extinguish their legacies after not being able to cope with life outside of a 94-foot stretch of hardwood, Bryant excelled. He was a venture capitalist, a passionate philanthropist, and an Oscar-winning filmmaker.
He defied basketball. He ascended to cultural ambassador status. His proficiency at his craft and his skill as an entertainer is one thing, but his story is more one of how perseverance, focus, and determination can grind any barrier to success down until that final satisfying breakthrough to excellence.
However, the same thing that will leave more of a legacy on this mortal coil than any jump shot or electrifying dunk also made his sudden passing even more of a gut punch. He was more than a doting father. He was obsessed with fatherhood like he was with making 18-footers. He was the father to four girls, and his constant presence in their lives on an off the court to an almost incomparable degree is what makes this senseless accident even more unbelievable.
We are trying to find the meaning in why a 41-year-old legend and a 13-year-old that didn't even get the chance to experience life were taken from us, and that search is only going to prove fruitless.The only thing we, as fans, can do is to keep Bryant's legacy as a self-made man, basketball immortal, and loving father in full view of everyone for as long as possible. We need to make sure that his legacy shines so bright that all others that dare to rival him are eclipsed by his grandeur.
And let's do the same for Gianna.