NBA great Kobe Bryant’s passing is still a fresh wound for those who watched him dominate the court for two decades.
For some, like his competitors, the five-time league championship winner was so large of a talent that even being in his presence would leave them in awe.
“His aura was just like a god-like figure,” said Kevin Durant. The Brooklyn Nets player went up against Bryant for more than a decade. The two even landed spots on Team USA West for the 2012 Olympics. Their lethal presence combined with other members of the team aided the West in being victorious that year.
“Like you see someone in the flesh who scored 81 points in an NBA game. It is hard to even speak around him,” said Durant during a Twitter Spaces broadcast. “But he’s open, and he was always trying to teach and help the younger generation out.”
That mentorship proved itself to be invaluable as Durant managed to become a better player that even Bryant admitted to being unable to crack on the court. “Kevin Durant. That was the one that I retired without really being able to figure out what it is — how I can stop him,” Bryant told former MLB star Alex Rodriguez during his 2018 appearance on “The Corp With A-Rod and Big Cat.”
Younger basketball stars such as Atlanta Hawks player Trae Young and the Phoenix Suns team member Devin Booker both say the 6’6” NBA Hall of Famer shared tips and his token “Mamba Mentality” with them.
Scores of other athletes, including Naomi Osaka and WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu, also fell under the wings of Bryant’s mentorship. Each of them has recounted the ways in which Bryant impacted their lives and challenged them to step up their game.
Bryant’s larger-than-life presence was especially felt as major cities across the country lit up buildings and fountains in purple and gold the day the Lakers legend passed. Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna “GiGi” Bryant, and seven others were killed in a devastating helicopter crash in California on the morning of January 26, 2020.
Even a year after his passing, NBA stars such as Los Angeles Lakers player Anthony Davis found it hard to grasp just how large of a figure Bryant truly was.
“I didn’t know, and I know he was very, very known and popular, but I didn’t know he impacted so many people’s lives outside of basketball,” Davis said. “From soccer, to football, to players overseas, to people who don’t even play sports, they’re always talking about the ‘Mamba Mentality.’ I didn’t know how impactful he was worldwide. … I just didn’t realize how many people he impacted worldwide that’s outside the basketball community.”
Bryant’s reach has proven itself to be global as murals honoring his career and his daughter continue to crop up around the world, and his name continues to be mentioned when it comes to one of the greatest to ever play the game.