RIP Mamba

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Kobe Bryant, Daughter Gianna Pass Away in 9-Person Helicopter Crash

Growing up, I fell in love with the game of basketball.

I used to watch it as a little boy and while I now work in baseball, basketball has always been my first love when it came to sports. I grew up reading up on the history of the game, memorizing statistics, watching hardwood classics. To this day, I know the most obscure basketball facts you can think of, I was obsessed with the game.

Not many people remember the first sports game they’ve ever watched – I do.

I was five years old.

The Toronto Raptors were taking on the Los Angeles Lakers and I was sitting on the couch with my dad in a room on the second floor of a house we used to live in over a decade ago. I was trying to understand the game that I was watching for the first time. I vividly remember asking my dad, “who is the best team in the NBA?”

“The Lakers,” he responded.

I continued to watch.

To this day, I remember the purple and gold jerseys that the Lakers wore that night. I remember first hearing the names Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant that night. They were larger than life. To me, a five year old kid, they felt immortal.

That was my first sporting memory – at least as far as I can remember.

If you ask anyone around – anyone who knows me that is – they would tell you that I have always been a diehard Raptors fan, but despite the 81 point game that nearly broke me, Kobe has always been my favourite player growing up across all sports. I still have his purple and gold no. 8 jersey in size kid’s medium. I still have posters of Kobe Bryant which I hung on the walls of my room with each move.

Today, the athlete that I looked up to throughout my childhood, the basketball player that seemed immortal when I first watched him play as a five year old passed away in a horrifying 9-person helicopter crash in California. Of the other eight passengers, one of them was his 13-year old daughter Gianna.

The news were met with absolute shock.

Earlier this afternoon, I got two texts simultaneously. “Bro did you hear the news, omg…” one of the messages read.

Immediately I thought, oh wow, did the Raptors just make a massive trade? Aware that the NBA’s trade deadline is quickly approaching. When I opened up Twitter, I was immediately shaken up – a feeling I’m sure many felt when they first heard the heartbreaking news.

Disbelief, sadness – incredible sadness.

Kobe Bryant was only 41 years old with many more years left ahead of him.

He was more than a five-time champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and one of the greatest basketball players to ever step foot on a basketball court. Bryant was a legend, his influence is evident – just open any social media application on your phone and you’ll realize just how many people Bryant’s relentless desire and strive for greatness has touched.

It is incredibly difficult to even compute what has transpired this afternoon. It feels like it hasn’t fully sunk in that one of the game’s greatest ambassadors and one of the sport’s most iconic individuals is no longer with us.

Just a tragic day for the sport of basketball. Rest in Peace, Black Mamba.

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