Alya Mehrtash staff writer
It’s rare that a person has such a significant impact that they are considered the embodiment of a place that millions of people call home. Now deceased, retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant was that person, especially for many students on campus. Whether it’s his numbers, 8 and 24, projected on a shot clock before basketball games or a sea of yellow and purple while one walks down the halls, it’s evident that our community has been heavily impacted by his death and his legacy.
Bryant, who was drafted into the NBA at age 17 and spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other individuals. His tragic and unexpected death came as a shock to many.
“I thought it was a joke or somebody else with the same name, but once I looked it up and realized it was true, I felt like I had fallen into a dark world,” junior Sara Schwartz said. “I have cried each night since his passing, hoping that he will rise out of the ashes carrying his daughter Gianna with him, healthy and happy. But deep down I know, yet don’t want to admit, that they’re gone. My hero is gone.”
When the news first broke on TMZ, junior Josh Omidi refused to believe the story because it had only been reported by one publication. As the day progressed and more press releases began to emerge, he fell into a state of shock, unable to even get up from bed. For him it became “one of the hardest days ever.”
Senior Maiya Masjedi is a “natural-born Laker fan” who, as a child, only paid attention to Bryant in basketball. In fact, she even feels that Bryant “represents her childhood.” On the morning of his death, her father pointed out the poor weather conditions, which investigators believe may have contributed to the fatal crash.
“It was actually kind of [ironic] because my dad saw the fog that morning and he was like, ‘It’s really foggy, it’s really ominous’ that morning. My brother barged in the room and is like, ‘Kobe died!’ and we were so confused,” Masjedi said. “I was in shock, I was distraught, I was uneasy. I didn’t know how to react. It’s just something that you’re so not expecting that you don’t know what to do with yourself, especially with someone like Kobe because Kobe’s like a family member. It’s just hard and so sudden, and your world kind of stands still for a second.”
One of Bryant’s most well-known teachings is the Mamba Mentality, which he described as being “able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday.” This mindset has become a key part of his legacy, and has inspired countless fans.
“He’s an amazing inspiration for any sport, or anything you do in life, to persevere and don’t be lazy and ‘if you want it, you can get it’ type of mentality,” Masjedi said. “He’s definitely inspired me to just work harder in everything and that if I want something, I’m going to get it, and, it’s very cheesy to say, but the ball is in my hands. If you want something, you go get it, and that’s kind of the drive he’s instilled in me that I didn’t realize I had until he passed.”
Junior Jonah Farahmand is yet another young fan inspired by Bryant’s perseverance and “can-do” attitude.
“He’s just a great idol. He motivates me because he did many things that many other people could not and he was able to push and fight through all of his pain,” Farahmand said. “Kobe’s inspired me by showing everyone that no matter what, you can still accomplish whatever you want to accomplish. No matter what pain you’re going through, you’re able to push through and do what you want.”
Schwartz reflected the same sentiments, finding inspiration in Bryant’s character.
“Ever since I was born, I would look up to Kobe like he was a god. He constantly was a true inspiration by showing how determined he was, not just in basketball, but in life,” she said.
In fourth and fifth grade, Omidi attended the Kobe Bryant Basketball Camp, where he also got the chance to meet Bryant. During their short interaction, Bryant left a young Omidi with memories he will never forget.
“Kobe’s taught me lessons I could never ever learn in school,” Omidi said. “When I went to Kobe camp, each camper could bring anything to get signed and I brought a ball. I gave him the ball to sign, he started signing it with a black Sharpie, and it wouldn’t come up on the ball. So he took a silver Sharpie and went over the black, and he goes, ‘Everybody makes mistakes.’ Me, as a little kid, I didn’t know what that meant. Now, reliving the memory, that was a big deal. He actually told me that—that’s important.”
As a female athlete, Schwartz also greatly admired Bryant’s advocacy for women, and specifically women in sports. His constant support for his daughters was evident, especially through his coaching of Gianna’s basketball team.
“Most fathers who were athletes are told to have a boy to pass on their genes, but Kobe was different,” she said. “He was over-the-moon happy with four daughters. He would encourage Gianna’s dream of becoming an amazing basketball player herself, just so she could be like her dad.”
Bryant’s euphemisms have a lasting impact on his legacy. However, some people chose not to wish him well after his death due to accusations of sexual assault in 2003. While acknowledging the importance of such allegations, Omidi feels that the focus should now be on his career, his teachings and his legacy over anything.
“He’s gone, so we have to take what he left us and can’t take it for granted and live through it,” Omidi said. “He’s always said, ‘The way I want to be remembered is everybody living through what I’ve preached,’ so that’s one way I’m going to remember him.”
Bryant’s legacy has also had a significant impact on Los Angeles, where he developed his career and ultimately became a symbol of the city. Tributes in his honor have been popping up all over LA, whether it’s through murals, buildings illuminated in purple and gold, or messages of “RIP Kobe” displayed on public busses.
“Kobe is LA. You think of LA, you think of the Lakers. Who brought the Lakers five championships? Kobe. Who brought happiness to LA? Kobe,” Omidi said. “It’s crazy because he’s done everything. He’s put so many smiles on people’s faces, taught so many lessons to different people. That’s what he represents: basketball, family, and happiness.”
Other Beverly students have also found their own ways of honoring Bryant. Before their game against West Torrance, the boys basketball team held a 24-second moment of silence as a tribute to him. However, honoring Bryant’s memory has not been solely limited to the basketball court. Senior Rohan Kapur, wearing Bryant’s jersey, stood up at 8:24 a.m. on Monday and asked his first-period class to have a 24-second moment of silence.
Through his career, Bryant was able to not only inspire his fans, but also to bring many different people together, both in Los Angeles and across the nation.
As she believes that Kobe united the people of Los Angeles, Masjedi, with tears in her eyes, said that the most important thing now is to never let his legacy die out.
“I think it’s really important that everyone keeps his legacy alive because he was something special. The best way to do that, especially right now, is to keep him in your thoughts and just remember who he was and remember him how he wanted to be remembered,” Masjedi said. “Just remember who he was and what he did for not only the Lakers but also for his fans and his family.”
Regardless of Bryant’s tragic death, Schwartz believes that his lasting impact on Los Angeles and his legacy will live on.
“Kobe was the soul of Los Angeles,” Schwartz said. “His legacy will live through everyone forever.”