Remembering Mamba: Kobe Bryant’s complex legacy

Sammie Stever-Zeitlin, Staff Writer

On Sunday, January 26, a basketball legend passed away. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna passed away in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with the nine other people onboard. He died at the age of only 41, and the world is still processing this sudden and tragic event.

Bryant’s family is grieving: Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant, shared her feelings on social media through a number of ways. She changed her Instagram profile picture to a photo of Bryant and Gianna smiling together.

In the caption of an Instagram post, Vanessa Bryant wrote, “We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe – the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna – a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianca, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately… They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”

Kobe Bryant was no doubt an influence in basketball, his many achievements in the sport led to his fame and respect inside and outside of the basketball community. In 2018, he co-founded the Mamba Sports Academy. Located in Thousand Oaks, California, he dedicated the Academy to training the current and next generations of athletes.

Bryant had many titles to his name – he was a five-time NBA Champion, 17-time NBA All-Star, and played with the Lakers for 20 seasons, the most seasons with one team a player has ever been with. He was named an NBA Finals MVP twice, and won two gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

But aside from impressive achievements, Bryant was an inspiration to many South students, who looked up to him for his talent and work-ethic. Junior Darrion Gadsden, who plays on South’s basketball team, explained, “His determination for the game made him great. He had this mentality of, ‘if you work for it, then anything can happen and you can win’… I wanted to do the same thing, so I just felt like he’s the one who made me feel like I need to work harder to be great at things I want to be good at.”

Yet, there has been some controversy over whether the media’s portrayal of Bryant’s life and legacy is accurate and/or representative. 

In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman. After significant media attention and public criticism, the accuser dropped the case before it was scheduled to go to trial, instead filing a civil lawsuit against Bryant that ended in a settlement. The details of the settlement were never made public.

Some news sources have been accused of glorifying Bryant, not holding him accountable for his actions and instead displaying him as a perfect/non-problematic person. However, other news sources have brought up the rape case and been accused of intentionally damaging his reputation.

Keaton Amundson is a freshman and basketball player for South. She voiced, “I feel like the trial should be revisited, it didn’t seem like it was right. I think it should be revisited but maybe a little bit after (his death), just to give people time so that it doesn’t start as much of an outrage… I feel like a lot of people could be really mad about it if that happened right when he died. I think now might’ve been a better time to go into it again.”

South history teacher Joshua Fisher mentioned, “That [case] certainly needs to be part of his story, and not out of the point of just delegitimizing him as a role model or a hero for some people, but I think it’s just fair for every human being, anybody that we focus on as a historical figure. Something that gets left out of the picture is looking at people as complex human beings. We’re not all good, we’re not all bad, talking about that in an honest way I think is very important.”

To honor Kobe and Gianna’s memory, the Mamba Sports Foundation created the MambaOnThree Fund to support the other families impacted by the tragedy. You can donate to the fund at