Drafted two years apart in their respective sport, Kobe Bryant 13th in the 1996 NBA Draft and Peyton Manning first in the 1998 NFL Draft, there’s no doubt they have both left an indelible imprint on their leagues.
When I brought that to his attention, Bryant laughed. “That’s nice, elder statesman,” Bryant told me in 2016. ”He’s older than I am, that’s one guy that I know that’s older than me.”
Peyton got his last Super Bowl ring on his way out when his Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50.
Bryant didn’t win one on his way out. But he did score 60 points in his last game ever against the Utah Jazz in April of 2016.
I asked Bryant if it would have been cool to ride off into the sunset like Manning. “It would have been amazing,” Bryant told me in 2016.
“It would have been amazing, but you know, it just wasn’t meant to be. But at the same time, I couldn’t complain about it. I’ve enjoyed winning to the tune of five championships and been very fortunate to have those. Most players haven’t been able to get one. So, you gotta be able to take the good with the bad.”
Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 on Sunday, January 26, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, while on his way to a basketball game at his Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks. Bryant, his daughter, Gianna Bryant and seven other passengers perished in the helicopter crash.
A 20-year NBA veteran, the shooting guard sits fourth on the NBA’s career scoring list with 33,643 points. He also has five NBA championships, and his numbers 8 and 24 are now both retired by the Los Angeles Lakers organization at Staples Center.
“When a celebrity passes away I mean we can remember when Michael Jackson passed away, you know it was similar,” former Lakers scout Adam Filippi told Scoop B Radio.
But it wasn’t as tragic of an ending. You know September 11th was obviously a bigger proportion, but I remember being stunned in front of the television just as I was stunned yesterday. I was stunned, shocked, upset, didn’t know what to do, it was just too surreal. But how do people mourn? I don’t know. You know it’s one thing that I do understand and people are like ‘well all these players…’ but people don’t understand who Kobe was to most of this new generation. He was their Michael Jordan and he epitomizes greatness and competiveness, and success and I think everybody wanted to be him but with the one thing that’s coming out in the last two days is how much he gave back. In the sense that he never turned down so many players that reached out to him when he retired and said hey can you show me this move? hey can I pick your brain?… I have known coaches that have done that, I’ve known players that have done that, or read about them and he didn’t turn down one person. You know there are a lot of great stars that really didn’t do much for the game after they retired or even when they were still playing. But Kobe REALLY really — I think he liked the mentoring part. Like he did it with Sasha Vujačić, with Jordan Farmar, with other players. I think he enjoys doing that you know up until his death he really enjoyed doing that, being there for younger players. Like you hear the stories about with Trae Young, about Demar DeRozan, about Giannis you know reaching out to him for advice; you know he was always there for them. I think that is the one thing that right now has come out that I think it is beautiful about his legacy is how much he was giving back to — instead of being competitive and thinking that he was better than everybody else, because you know when guys retire they still think they can play.