Gone but never forgotten, Kobe Bryant’s wide-ranging impact lives on

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

Kobe Bryant’s influence seems to ripple out from the center and touch everywhere.

From NBA locker rooms to the bench of young girls AAU games. From the NBA court at Staples Center to a playground court in the Philippines. From movie studio lots to corporate boardrooms. From the heart of Los Angeles to cites where for years he was loathed as a villain.

Kobe Bryant touched countless lives — which is why his death has left a hole in hearts around the globe.

As the shock of his unexpected death on Sunday — in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others — wore off on Monday and sadness crept in its place, the tributes that popped up showed how his life had impacted so many others.

It is the truest sign of a life well lived.

The pain in Los Angeles shared by cities globally

Nowhere was the loss of Kobe felt more acutely than in Los Angeles — because to Angelinos Kobe came to symbolize their city. Or, at least what Angelino’s want to believe about their city. He won — championships and an Oscar. He was driven and intellectually curious, a confident risk-taker, a man who was obsessed about his job but still made time for family, and someone who would not accept failure.

You could feel the city’s love on Monday night, when an impromptu crowd filled the L.A. Live Plaza across from Staples Center to watch an outdoor, big-screen replay of Kobe’s finale — a 60-point game that was the perfect ending to his career. Laker fans showed up and chanted his name.


It wasn’t just Los Angeles paying tribute to the man.

At ever NBA game on Monday night, it started with a 24-second violation by one team and an 8-second backcourt violation by the other — 24 and 8 being Kobe’s numbers.

There was Madison Square Garden, home to some of Kobe’s biggest nights.


And there were arenas in Utah and Portland — two franchises Kobe particularly tortured on the court — where tributes were paid because of the respect the man had earned.

Kobe’s impact reached out globally as well, including all the way to the Philippines.


Kobe’s influence among NBA players

As he often does, Gregg Popovich summed up how many NBA players Kobe impacted.

“Young kids on your team idolized him and looked up to him. The older ones knew him, and talked to him and had relationships with him. No matter which one of those groups you belong to, it was a tragic shock.”

Among the many with relationships with Kobe, none seemed hit harder by the tragedy than the man who took over the Lakers’ mantle, LeBron James.


LeBron and Kobe were peers — they won two Gold Medals together — but for a younger generation of up-and-coming stars, such as Joel Embiid, Kobe was their north star.


It wasn’t just players who felt Kobe’s impact — even NBA referees did.


Kobe’s business impact

Kobe was preparing for life after basketball long before he hung up his Nikes.

As he retired, he and venture Capitalist Jeff Stibel launched Bryant Stibel, a $100 million tech investment fund that built on the work the pair had been doing for three years. Their portfolio included Alibaba, The Players’ Tribune, LegalZoom, Epic Games (the developer of “Fortnite”) and many more. Plus, Kobe invested $6 million in sports drink BodyArmor, and a number that was incredibly profitable when Coca-Cola bought BodyArmor for $200 million.

But where Kobe really wanted to focus was what he called “Storytelling.” That started with turning a piece he had written for the Players Tribune into a short animated film called “Dear Basketball.” That went on to win an Oscar for best animated short.

The one common denominator across all of this was Kobe’s work ethic — it was the aspirational part of Kobe for fans. Few people won the genetic lottery and get to play in the NBA, but everyone has something that they love and want to succeed at and Kobe’s will and relentlessness can apply to that.

It’s the lasting part of Kobe’s influence, the part everyone can take to heart and apply to their lives.

Once they are done mourning the legend.

What to Read Next