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The day the basketball stopped bouncing

The shock and agony of Kobe Bryant’s death brought over the world on Sunday may live on for many years to come.

His wife and children were the first things that came to mind. The tragedy turned an even darker corner, with the news that his daughter, Gianna, also perished in the crash. For Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, it’s a loss of a husband and child. Regardless of who was on that helicopter, the situation is horrific as it could be.

It’s the pitiless feeling in your stomach that is the hardest to get out. The feeling of paralyzing grief.

It’s a death that will become a timestamp for people in the years to come: where were you when you heard that Kobe Bryant died.

That same experience can be linked to other famous deaths like Michael Jackson, or reaching farther back, the death of John Lennon.

But this is different. It’s important to realize that this may be one of the most tragic events in the history of sports.

It‘s hard to simply say, “RIP Kobe.” It’s too short to encapsulate the weight that his death means.

He was the hero in the city of Los Angeles, having won five NBA Championships and an MVP of an iconic franchise. He was a cultural and global icon, with one of the most popular signature shoes in the world, a large fanbase in China, popular among soccer players and fluent in several languages.

The 41-year-old was moving on from an athletic career to an artistic career and had interests in business. Surely, the animated movie “Dear Basketball” would not have been Bryant’s only Oscar-winning work.

And on top of it all, his influence as a basketball player is extensive. He defined a generation of basketball players and people shooting paper into wastebaskets. Kids emulated Bryant on the court in all sorts of ways.

No one in the last 20 years wanted to be like Mike; they wanted to be like Kobe. I simply cannot shoot a turnaround fadeaway, Bryant’s signature shot, without a rush of emotion.

As an athlete, he developed a work ethic that was totally Americana: work hard to be successful, never stop working and keep working harder.

But this was also a man faced with a complex public image. A rape allegation in 2003 reveals another face of Bryant, a darker one. Bryant admitted to adultery and publicly apologized.

To move beyond this event is challenging to do. It’s hard to think that Kobe Bryant was in the helicopter with his daughter on Sunday morning. It was a Kobe Bryant who worked hard to redefine himself.

Besides the NBA Championships, shoe deals, movies and legendary moments in sports, Bryant was just a man. He will never enjoy what was coming to him and that is the saddest part of all.

He will never see his daughters graduate high school and grow up. He won’t grow old with his wife. He won’t get to sit in rocking chairs with Shaquille O’Neal and reminisce about the good ol’ days of early 2000s Los Angeles.

The NBA has taken grieving measures to as far as postponing the Clippers-Lakers game and instead broadcasting Bryant’s final game from 2016. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even announced he would retire Bryant’s number 24. Several teams took a 24-second shot clock violations at the beginning of games on Sunday as a memorial.

The rest of this NBA season may be underscored by his death. It is evident the grieving and memorializing will not fade away any time this year.

And it shouldn’t. The NBA All-Star Game, a game Bryant had played in 18 times, should be effectively named “The Kobe Bryant Memorial All-Star Game.” The least that can happen is the renaming of the All-Star MVP, an award Bryant won a record 4 times.

Like any death, we cannot grieve forever; but we can take the right steps to never forget what Kobe Bean Bryant meant to the world of sports.

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