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Sport For Kobe Bryant, basketball wasn’t just a vocation, it was an outlet for his genius

23:05  27 january  2020
23:05  27 january  2020 Source:   bostonglobe.com

LeBron James posts tribute to Kobe Bryant on Instagram: 'I'm heartbroken and devastated'

  LeBron James posts tribute to Kobe Bryant on Instagram: 'I'm heartbroken and devastated' LeBron James spoke with Kobe Bryant on Saturday night after James passed Bryant on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Hours later, Bryant was dead.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

a basketball player jumping up in the air: Kobe Bryant (right) played in two memorable NBA Finals against the Celtics. © 2010 file/jim davis Kobe Bryant (right) played in two memorable NBA Finals against the Celtics.

Time isn’t always a fair bargain. You can’t control it. You can’t buy more of it. You don’t get any warning when it’s about to expire. Time definitely wasn’t fair to Kobe Bean Bryant, both in the chronology of NBA greats and the sudden, tragic manner in which the Lakers legend prematurely departed this Earth.

The 41-year-old Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died Sunday when the helicopter they were taking to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif. It’s an ineffable tragedy.

Kobe Bryant's Widow Vanessa Speaks Out Following Husband and Daughter Gianna's Tragic Deaths

  Kobe Bryant's Widow Vanessa Speaks Out Following Husband and Daughter Gianna's Tragic Deaths Vanessa Bryant wed Kobe Bryant in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18 . During their nearly 19-year marriage, the couple welcomed four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri.A source previously told PEOPLE in the wake of the shocking deaths that, as expected, Vanessa is “devastated.”RELATED: Vanessa Bryant Trying to ‘Be the Strong One’ for Daughters After Kobe Bryant and Gianna’s Deaths“She can hardly keep it together,” the insider said. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls.

I’ve often thought Bryant was actually an underappreciated NBA icon. He had the misfortune of following in the Nikes of the incomparable Michael Jordan. There was no tougher act to follow in sports, and Kobe was subjected to endless comparisons from the moment he came straight out of Lower Merion High School into the NBA in 1996. I remain convinced that if Bryant had come before Jordan, those comparisons would have been flipped. Jordan’s greatness would have been measured through the prism of Bryant’s breathtaking exploits.

There is no greater compliment you can pay Bryant, no better testament to his greatness, than the fact that he escaped the longest shadow in basketball, in sports, Jordan’s. Kobe carved out his own one-name legacy and enduring legend in NBA lore and global pop culture, inspiring generations of athletes who wanted to be like . . . him, including LeBron James, whom many have been too quick to catapult past Bryant in the all-time hoops hierarchy.

Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin honors Kobe Bryant, wears No. 24

  Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin honors Kobe Bryant, wears No. 24 Ovechkin honored the late Lakers great by switching numbers during warmups.During warmups, Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin honored the late Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant by wearing 24 on his jersey prior to the team's contest against the Nashville Predators.

How many other athletes have an entire frame of mind named for them? The relentless “Mamba Mentality” was the essence of Kobe, nicknamed the Black Mamba after one of the world’s most lethal snakes. He became more than a basketball player. He became the embodiment of an indefatigable mentality toward accomplishment recognized the world over.

How ubiquitous was Bryant? Soccer star Neymar saluted him by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on another to signify No. 24, Bryant’s final NBA jersey number, after scoring a goal for French soccer power Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.

Video: Kobe was just starting his post-retirement legacy (Provided by USA Today Sports

Kobe’s loss resonates worldwide like the deaths of Michael Jackson and Prince. It’s the extinguishment of a formidable creative fire prematurely.

They Heard Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Go Down. Then They Prayed.

  They Heard Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Go Down. Then They Prayed. CALABASAS, Calif. — It began as just another Sunday at a little church along Las Virgenes Road, on a quiet edge of suburban Los Angeles. The Church in the Canyon is an unremarkable box of a building, with a flat roof over glass front doors. It was about 9:45 a.m. The Sunday worship service was an hour away. A ceiling of low clouds obscured the tops of the bare, brown hills across the road. You cannot always see the moment that the world is about to change.Sign Up For the Morning Briefing NewsletterElizabeth Howland Forrest had just arrived from Santa Monica, mesmerized along the way by the low-flying helicopter that she followed west for several miles on Highway 101.

Bryant was more than an all-time great, a basketball prodigy, a five-time champion, an 18-time All-Star, and the owner of the second-highest single-game scoring output in NBA history (81 points) next to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. He was an artiste, on and off the court.

Bryant wrote poetry and rap rhymes. He won an Oscar for the animated adaptation of his basketball billet-doux, “Dear Basketball.” He spoke fluent Italian from his father’s days playing overseas. He was a fan of Beethoven. He wrote a children’s book. Sophisticated yet relatable, he died on the way to coach his daughter’s team in a youth basketball tournament.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Kobe fan. I grew up here rooting for the Larry Bird-era Celtics, detesting — but begrudgingly respecting — the Lakers of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. Kobe was the torchbearer for Lakers lore.

But from the moment I first read about Bryant’s high school exploits in a basketball magazine, I was captivated by him. Later on, I had the privilege of covering some of his games, including the epic Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals clashes in 2008 and 2010.

Elliott: Sorrow overwhelms at Staples Center over death of Kobe Bryant

  Elliott: Sorrow overwhelms at Staples Center over death of Kobe Bryant Flowers. There were so many flowers. And candles whose fragrance competed with bouquets that had been lovingly placed in makeshift memorials along 11th Street, outside Staples Center, and in huge mounds across the street at Xbox Plaza at L.A. Live. There were balloons and jerseys, smiling teddy bears and scuffed basketballs. But the gut punches were delivered by notes that had been written on paper, cardboard, or greeting cards.

You could tell how much those series meant to Bryant, not just because in the first one he was trying to prove he could win a championship sans Shaquille O’Neal. He grew up a Lakers fans watching the Celtics and Lakers do battle for basketball supremacy in the 1980s. Here was his opportunity to leave his fingerprints on the game’s most storied rivalry.

The Celtics won the ’08 series as Bryant’s Lakers were blasted off the parquet in Game 6, suffering a 39-point beatdown. Kobe won his fourth championship — and first without Shaq — the next season, beating the Orlando Magic.

So there was a lot of anticipation in 2010 when the teams met for a Finals rematch. Question after question was asked about what it would mean to Kobe to win a fifth championship by defeating the New Big Three Celtics of KG, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Kobe parried them all away. Pure Mamba Mentality.

Then the Lakers won a ragged Game 7 at Staples Center, and Bryant finally came clean, admitting how special it was to beat Boston.

“I was just lying to you guys,” Bryant said. “When you’re in the moment, you have to suppress that because if you get caught up in the hype of it all, you don’t really play your best basketball.

“But I mean, you guys know what a student I am of the game. I know every series that the Lakers have played in. I mean, I was just a Laker nut, and I know every Celtics series. I know every statistic.

Opinion: Why Lakers, LeBron James are equipped to navigate Kobe Bryant tragedy

  Opinion: Why Lakers, LeBron James are equipped to navigate Kobe Bryant tragedy The Lakers are among the last of the family-owned teams, and that close-knit nature might be the reason they can navigate an unfathomable tragedy. It’s crushing for the franchise and for the players, including LeBron James, who all grew up watching and idolizing Bryant. His only public comment so far is an Instagram post.It helps to have a player like James, who wrote, in part: “Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids.

“It meant the world to me as well, but I couldn’t focus on that. I had to focus on playing.”

That was Kobe.

I think even Celtics fans grew to appreciate the lionized Laker’s unique approach to the game. Basketball wasn’t just a vocation for Bryant. It was an art form, an outlet for his genius, curiosity, and creativity.

He could do the impossible, such as getting Celtics fans at TD Garden to serenade a Laker with “MVP” chants in 2007 when he dropped 43 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the parquet, draining 7 of 9 threes.

In death, there is often a rush to canonize the deceased, airbrush away all their faults and sins. But we’re dealing with three-dimensional people, not the two-dimensional image featured on a poster. You can’t talk about Bryant’s life without mentioning the sexual assault allegation he faced.

He was accused of raping a 19-year-old Colorado hotel employee in 2003. He admitted to infidelity but denied the sexual assault. The charges were dropped in 2004 after the alleged victim declined to testify. Bryant apologized and later settled a civil lawsuit. It’s the most troubling chapter of Bryant’s public life, one that soured some people on him permanently.

Bryant’s life was public from the time he was 17. (He attended his senior prom with R&B; singer Brandy.) Kobe was like basketball Elvis. He evolved into different versions, donned different looks (wearing No. 8 and No. 24.), but he remained an icon.

There was precocious, reedy, teen Kobe desperate to make his mark. There was mini-Afro Kobe who teamed with Shaq to form one of the most dynamic and fractious partnerships in NBA history, one that produced three straight NBA titles and constant drama.

Lillard matches Kobe with historic 6-game scoring outburst

  Lillard matches Kobe with historic 6-game scoring outburst Damian Lillard's incredible recent run has put him on equal footing with a late legend. After dropping 51 against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers star has now totaled 293 points over his last six games. That draws Lillard equal with Kobe Bryant for the third-highest output over any six-game stretch in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton.After dropping 51 against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers star has now totaled 293 points over his last six games. That draws Lillard equal with Kobe Bryant for the third-highest output over any six-game stretch in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton.

There was Jordanesque Kobe, a one-man show who won back-to-back scoring titles in 2006 and 2007, and then captured an MVP award and two more championships when the Lakers pilfered Pau Gasol. There was Jedi Kobe, a bald-headed, blunt doyen who became a beloved basketball ambassador.

That Kobe went out as only he could in his final game in 2016, taking 50 shots and scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz. It was a literal and figurative mic drop, as he famously said, “Mamba, out,” after addressing the LA crowd following that quintessential Kobe performance.

Now, it’s Mamba, out, forever. And that feels so wrong. But, in life and death, Bryant followed his own script.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

Related slideshow: Kobe's life in pictures (Provided by photo services)

John Altobelli, his wife and daughter will be honored at a memorial service at Angels Stadium .
A memorial service honoring baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa will be held Monday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, two weeks after they died in a helicopter crash that also killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and four others. © Altobelli Family The Altobelli family (from left): Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Alexis Altobelli, J.J. Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli. The service is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET) and will be open to the public, the Los Angeles Angels confirmed to CNN. "Needless to say ...

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