One year ago, today, January 26, 2020, basketball hero, mentor, and superstar Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with eight others, including his daughter, Gianna. It is one of those moments – one where you will always remember where you were when it happened, when you first heard the news. Today we want to celebrate his life, and the bright spot he left in youth sports.
Kobe Bean Bryant was the youngest player in NBA history at 18-years-old. Still in his teen years, he won the NBA dunk contest and at 20 he became the youngest All Star in NBA history. He inspired a generation of Gen Z-ers before they were old enough to order a drink.
When Kobe retired, he began coaching his daughter, Gianna’s, middle school basketball team. From that moment, his impact on youth sports would not be ignored and never forgotten. “In terms of youth sports, Kobe treated it as something that we need to pay attention to,” said Tom Farrey, founder of Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. Through his daughter, Kobe became a leader and a proponent for not just youth sports, but especially women’s sports. Kobe had no sons and wanted to inspire his daughters to be all they could be. He envisioned Giana one day playing in the WNBA.
In 2018, Kobe partnered with a multi-sport training facility and rebranded it Mamba Sports Academy, a nod to the Mamba mentality, the idea that you should “try to be the best version of yourself,” said Kobe. “That is what the mentality is. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday,’ he reportedly explained during his 2016 Mamba Mentality Tour. “Mamba Sports Academy is a natural expansion of my commitment to educating and empowering the next generation of kids through sports.”
And despite his early departure, Kobe Bean Bryant continues to inspire and empower the next generation of kids through sports.