The Black Mamba may be no longer with us in body, but his spirit will live on forever.  After Kobe Bryant’s sudden death in a helicopter crash Sunday, in which his 13-year-old daughter and seven others also perished, the entire sports world has come together to remember the NBA phenom.  From across the globe, Bryant has received nothing but tributes, accolades and praise for all of the work he did; his tireless efforts to help others and not succumb to the brightness of the limelight.

Tributes For Kobe Bryant Pouring In

In expressing the man that led the LA Lakers to five NBA Championships, ESPN sports reporter Ramona Shelburne recalled a time she wanted to have an interview with Bryant.  He made it clear from the start how the interview should be conducted, an exemplary statement of his dedication to athletes everywhere.  Bryant told Shelburne, “I’m not interested in self-serving pieces.  It has to be something where an athlete reads it and is inspired by something, learns something and pushes themselves.”

On the basketball courts, as they say, the show must go on.  However, the eight teams that had to play yesterday took time out during the game to honor Bryant.  They organized a shot clock violation that saw players holding the ball for 24 seconds, or for eight, in the backcourt.  The two numbers, of course, representing the numbers found on the back of Bryant’s jerseys as he set records across the NBA.  In one game, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young wore a jersey with the number 8 on it, saying after the game, “Today was a tough day to play basketball.  My condolences go out to Vanessa and the Bryant family. It’s a tough day to play. I just wanted to go out and play for him.”

Global Appeal Of A Star

Across continents, the strength of Bryant, and the sadness of his departure, resonated with those who even didn’t follow the NBA that closely.  You don’t have to be a huge NBA fan to recognize the name Kobe Bryant; his reputation and his efforts to improve sports everywhere is well known.  The head of the Italian basketball federation, Giovanni Petrucci, told the Associated Press, “All of the NBA players are important because they’re legends, but he’s particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here.  He had a lot of Italian qualities.  He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang,”

In another of the tributes Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, previously met Bryant, who helped him overcome an injury.  His assistance has definitely paid off, given Djokovic’s skills on the court, and he told ESPN, “Kobe has been one of my mentors.  I’ve had several phone conversations with him, and also, of course, when we saw each other in the last couple of years, when I was going through my injury with the elbow and struggling to kind of mentally and emotionally handle all these things that were happening to me … he was one of the people who was really there for me and could give some very valuable guidelines.”

Bryant was an Olympic champion.  He led the US to gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Games, as well as the 2012 London Games.  His loss will be felt in the Olympics, as well, and a statement by International Olympics Committee president Thomas Bach shows the admiration Bryant had acquired for his athletic prowess.  He said in a statement issued by the IOC, “[Bryant] embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives.  After retiring from the game he loved so much, he continued to support the Olympic Movement and was an inspiration for the Olympic Games LA 2028.”

Tiger Woods summed up best the sentiment that everyone is feeling after the tragedy that unexpectedly claimed nine lives.  While playing at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines yesterday, he told reporters, “It’s one of the most shocking, tragic days that I’ve ever been a part of in a very quick span here.”