Tribute to a legend

One year after the infamous helicopter crash LM community members continue to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant ’96. This article provides insight into many of Kobe’s accomplishments, both on and off the court.

One+year+after+the+tragic+accident+that+killed+Kobe+Bryant%2C+individuals+around+the+world+continue+to+remember+his+legacy+both+on+and+off+the+court.+%7C+Graphic+by+Graphic+by+Cate+Roser+%E2%80%9921%2FStaff

Cate Roser '21

One year after the tragic accident that killed Kobe Bryant, individuals around the world continue to remember his legacy both on and off the court. | Graphic by Graphic by Cate Roser ’21/Staff

Any member of the LM community will undoubtedly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death last January 26. Falling under the category of rumors seemingly too heartbreaking to be true, the news first broke that Sunday afternoon and quickly spread across social media. Bryant was a hero known worldwide, not just for his athletic prowess and status as an all-time National Basketball Association (NBA) great, but for his compassion, work ethic, and more than anything, his burning, unwavering determination to excel as a player and a teammate, a father and a husband, a human being. The impact of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others rapidly spread across the globe, but for many LM students and township residents, the devastation hit close to home. Bryant graduated from LM in 1996 after leading the Aces to a 31-3 record and a PIAA state championship his senior season. He finished his high school career with a variety of personal accolades, including a Pennsylvania Player of the Year selection as a junior, Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men’s National Basketball Player of the Year, and McDonald’s All-American honors after the 1996 season.

Selected thirteenth overall by the Charlotte Hornets directly out of LM in 1996, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft night where he ultimately spent all twenty years of his illustrious professional tenure in the NBA. At just 23 years old, coming off his third consecutive NBA title, Kobe’s number 33 was retired by the Aces basketball program in 2002. Fifteen years later, when Kobe concluded his playing days, his Lakers uniform choices–eight and 24–were both retired in Los Angeles.

Bryant’s eighteen All-Star Game appearances, five championships, Most Valuable Player award, Hall of Fame membership, and widely agreed-upon status as one of the few most dominant forces to ever dribble the ball on hardwood are incredible achievements, though they are not the sole indicators of his greatness as a player and a person. The gym named after him where the Aces’s home games take place, the memorabilia lining the hallway outside the court, and the $411,000 raised for the school district over the years are equally representative measures; so was his last road game in Philadelphia against the 76ers in 2015 in front of a raucous home crowd that, despite its reputation for hostility towards opponents, roared with approval every time Bryant put the ball through the basket; so was the collection of bouquets, jerseys, and basketballs left outside the Bryant Gymnasium in the aftermath of his passing; so was the solemn 33-second moment of silence the next morning announced over the LM loudspeakers; so was the attendance of seemingly the entire community for the Aces’s first home game after the crash, inside the very building in which his career got off to a promising start.

It is far from rare for professional athletes to have pride in and give back to their communities, yet Bryant’s commitment to and appreciation of his hometown and alma mater is eternally mutual and will continue to live on as part of his legacy. Thank you, Kobe. Aces nation loves you forever.