Vassar contemplates Kobe’s legacy

Courtesy of Kobe Bryant Facebook Page.

I’m still processing the news of Kobe’s passing. I remember being in middle school with all of the buzz about this high school player being drafted (and of course just fueling my dreams of playing basketball on a bigger stage one day). I tuned in whenever I could to any game, interview, TV appearance—I recorded them to VHS tapes to watch and practice his moves. I remember being so excited when he had a guest appearance on the TV show Moesha. I begged and begged my parents for his first sneakers when they came out because I just had to have them. They didn’t have my size, but I still somehow managed to talk my way into a pair and wore them every single game anyway. As time passed, he was just a part of the game. It felt like I was along for the same ride, including moving from the days of playing and on to being a parent. I was moved even more by his [post-retirement] commitment to his family life and the support of women’s sports. He attended women’s college games, WNBA games, commented when watching on tv, and committed to coaching the next generation. Seeing the joy on his face when working with his daughter on the court or just watching the game was truly special. His legacy on the court will certainly be remembered and cherished, but my heart aches for all of those left behind and for the chapters that had yet to be written.
— Lucia Robinson-Griggs, Women’s Basketball Head Coach

One of the most devastating days of my life. Kobe wasn’t just a basketball player; he wasn’t just an athlete. He was a role model, an idol, a hero for all the kids who needed to find an example of how to work on your craft. You could be a dancer, a volleyball player, a mechanic or anything at all; Kobe was someone you could aspire to act like. His drive, his passion, the incredible amount of work he put into his game is something that is truly legendary, and as an athlete I have immense respect for what he did throughout his career. I for one have been inspired by him throughout my whole life. Rest in peace, Kobe.
— Steven Koja ’23

Kobe Bryant impacted my life in so many ways. As a basketball player, he was someone I’ve always looked up to and admired. He has done so much for the game and his work ethic was second to none. Even more, I took pride in my area knowing he grew up and played the game I loved only 20 minutes from me. The Philly area is huge on pride and it wasn’t difficult to claim him as one of our own. Seeing him embrace Philly as well made me feel like I had a personal connection to him. Outside of the amazing player he was, he was a huge advocate and supporter of women’s basketball. I’m sure many of my teammates will say the same thing, that seeing such a huge star courtside at women’s college basketball and WNBA games, especially with his daughter, meant a lot. The way he shared the game he loved so much with his daughter and how proud he was of her was really something special. I think something people forget is when he won an Oscar. He turned his poignant poem into an Oscar-worthy short film that truly encapsulated his message and love for the game. Kobe will forever be a legend, on and off the court.
— Ryan DeOrio ’21

Kobe was most commonly known as a legend on the court for his championships and high-scoring games. As a player, I am able to admire his accolades even more knowing about his work ethic and mindset. He lived in the moment and never made excuses. Kobe will also be forever known as the biggest believer in women’s basketball. He genuinely respected and supported female athletes at all levels through his words and actions. He attended WNBA games, hosted training sessions and coached his daughter’s basketball team. The passing of Kobe Bryant along with the loss of his daughter, Gigi, his legacy, is absolutely devastating. I would have loved to see Kobe’s continued positive impact off the court, and it is without a doubt that Gigi had an incredible basketball career and bright life ahead of her.
— Isa Peczuh ’20

This one hurts. Kobe was one of the first athletes I remember being proud to watch play myself. He wasn’t my dad’s hero, or my grandfather’s. He was one of ours. It hurts because he seemed so indestructible, and so full of life even after he retired. His passing makes you remember that life is short, so give everything you have to whatever it is you do. RIP to the man who always did.
— Ryan Mazurkiewicz ’22

I grew up watching Kobe. Hours later and I still can’t believe it. It just doesn’t make sense. He was more than just a basketball player to me. He was an icon. What I will always remember is the memories made with family, the championships and the “Mamba Mentality.” It means to live your life in a constant quest to be better today than you were yesterday; to constantly be the best version of yourself. Rest in Peace Kobe Bean Bryant. Thank you for inspiring me to be better and do better every day.
— Romario Ortiz ’21

He really has not had an impact on me at all, but simply the fact that someone can die so young is what really hit me. I remember being really affected when a favorite opera singer of mine died of brain cancer a few years back and I was just really struck by mortality and all that. And lately seeing all of these crashes and people dying so young, it’s really tragic. To me it has nothing to do with him as a sports icon. It just goes to show you that you only have so long on this earth. Might as well do something good with it.
— Anonymous

Kobe Bryant’s passing has not fully hit me yet. It has been difficult for me to put into words how Kobe has impacted me. As a basketball fan, player and coach I have always admired and revered his passion for being the best in every aspect of his life. As time passes, I will always remember how he helped inspire millions of people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. That is something he did for me, and I will never forget that!
— Dan Bozzelli, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach

I’m still sorting through a lot of feelings on Kobe and Gianna’s passing. As an alum of Lower Merion High School, I spent four years walking past the Kobe Shrine (located just outside the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, of course). Anywhere I went in the world, I knew that if I said the name of my school, there was a very real chance that a Lakers fan might chime in with “A 6’6” guard…” My heart goes out to his wife and surviving daughters, his teammates, coworkers, mentees, and all those affected by his loss. Even now, even as I try to make sense of the loss of a man who was not just a legend but our local legend, I refuse to forget that if you had asked me 24 hours ago to reflect on him, I would have told a very different story. I would have brought up the rape trial, the subsequent civil suit, the settlement, and his half-hearted apology that the act wasn’t consensual and that his continued hero-worship is a stain on the NBA and on sports fandom. So while his loss pains me—and it does pain me—my thoughts are also with his victim, and with all the survivors for whom today’s news and outpouring of grief might land very differently.
— Itamar Ben-Porath ’21

Kobe Bryant inspired a generation. After the news broke, my phone continued to blow up the rest of the day—college teammates, high school teammates, former players, classmates, colleagues in the coaching profession, co-workers, family members—all in disbelief. Never before could I recall the death of someone generating such a response from so many different circles. Kobe wasn’t perfect, but the reactions from people around the world, most of whom he never met, speaks volumes to the impact he made while he was here. Not just as a basketball player, but as a father, a friend and an advocate for women’s sports. As a father to a daughter, the photos of Kobe with Gigi sitting court side will be how I choose to remember him, because that is the bond I dream of having as my daughter gets older.
— Ryan Mee, Men’s Basketball head coach

Kobe was an inspiration to all athletes, not just basketball players. I always looked up to Kobe because of his drive and competitiveness. He worked harder than anybody else and he wanted to win more than anybody else. He never backed down, and always just kept pushing himself to excellence. We have lost a great person. RIP Kobe, Gigi and the others who were killed in the crash.
— Doug Cobb ’23

I grew up a LeBron fan my whole life, always cheering for number 23 and not 24. Even though Kobe wasn’t my favorite player, he always inspired me with the stories of his work ethic and killer mentality in a way that LeBron never did. I think every hooper has a little bit of Kobe inside of them. Kobe is the star that almost every current college and professional basketball player grew up watching, and his death means so much because there is a generation of players that are playing right now because they were inspired by Kobe. He inspired us to pick up a basketball every day, and without him, many of the current superstars that we all watch today wouldn’t be playing professional basketball. I know I would never have made it to the college level without his influence, and I think many others would say the same.
— Kevin McAullife ’23

I remember running home from the local basketball courts, crying after losing badly or getting kicked off. Hearing “Stop asking to play, Jew!” haunted me. Going to the park became frightening. Then, during my freshman year of high school, Kobe scored 60 in his final game. My love and dedication for basketball grew, and I began discovering the life, approach and influence of an immeasurably tenacious and compassionate legend. I returned to the park with an unflinching smile towards the hatred I learned to channel. Soon, I joined the varsity team. Kobe and Gigi. Their grit and love inspire me.
— Ben Fikhman ’23

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