Remembering sports icon, Kobe Bryant, and his connection to Alabama Football

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images) /

We recently lost one of the biggest names in all of sports, Kobe Bryant. Let’s look back at this icon and his connection to the Alabama Football team.

Sunday afternoon, the kind of news that stops you in your tracks broke. It was the kind of news that has you running to a TV or turning up the radio to make sure you heard correctly. It was the kind of news that you’ll remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard for the rest of your life. It was the most significant death the sports world had seen in some time. Along with 8 others, Kobe Bryant lost his life prematurely at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash.

You didn’t have to follow basketball to know who Kobe was or the legacy he left behind. He was one of the greatest to ever step on the court. While debate went on for years as to whether he or Lebron James was better, Kobe congratulated Lebron the night before his death for surpassing his NBA all-time points record.

In his final public message to the world, he congratulated someone for beating him. That tells you everything you need to know about Kobe. While he may not hold all the records, his legacy speaks for itself. He built the Los Angeles Lakers. An entire generation says “Kobe” before shooting trash at a trash can. He established a culture that extends beyond any realm he could have ever imagined.

Kobe was a fierce competitor. In one game, Kobe tore his Achilles while being fouled. The Achilles’ tendon is always under extreme tension behind the ankle, and as a result, is known to be one of the most painful injuries. After tearing his, Kobe stood, walked to the line, and made his two deserved free throws prior to walking off the court to be evaluated. This is what it means to have his famous “Mamba Mentality”.

Prior to his final game before retirement, Kobe acknowledged that his body wasn’t in its top form any longer. Despite not expecting much -maybe 10 or so minutes of playing time- Kobe went and dropped 60 points, only one of two players to do so that year.

Kobe was dedicated and had a work ethic second to none. More importantly, he was a family man. He was as dedicated to his wife and four girls as he was the game. He explained in a 2018 interview that he felt helicopter travel was the answer to his need to balance basketball and family. He could put in the necessary work on the court and still make it to his daughters’ school events by avoiding LA traffic. Tragically, the thing he thought would allow him to be closer to his family would eventually be what stole him and his daughter Gianna from them.

After retirement, Kobe spent his time furthering what he perceived to be his more important legacy. He founded the Mamba Sports Academy in LA, a training facility for a variety of youth sports. He coached his daughter’s basketball team and spent time sharing his passion for youth in all sports.

This passion is what brought him to Tuscaloosa in 2018 to speak to the Alabama Football team. Speaking after the recent national championship win, Kobe had the task of motivating the team to push through the offseason and continue chasing perfection.

Kobe discussed the importance of priorities and explained his competitor’s mentality going into games. He explained that excellence was a way of life. Giving less than your best- even when the opponent doesn’t require your best- does nothing but develop bad habits for yourself. His belief about “the process” aligns seamlessly with head coach Nick Saban’s.

Kobe was larger than life- a real life superhero to so many. His death seemed surreal. Superheroes aren’t supposed to go out like that.

It is these tragedies that ultimately inspire us all. They make us reflect on why we do what we do everyday. We begin to realize how far our true impact extends beyond our perceived circle. We get a glimpse of how quickly the mundane and ordinary can turn into tragic and extraordinary.

Life is short and fragile. It is fleeting and sometimes too easy to get caught in the motion of the days. We take for granted every time we make it home safely. It takes a heart wrenching tragedy to slow us down enough to recognize these truths.

Kobe never left the court without leaving 110 percent of himself on it. He was a warrior. I’m sure in his final moments, he gave that 110 percent of himself too- comforting the thing he loved more than basketball.

In honor of his legacy, we all should have a little more Kobe in us every day.