Kobe Bryant
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The collective world asks, “Why Kobe Bryant?,” as it’s done for so many other prior (Munson, Marciano, Clemente, etc.)

Rich Mancuso

There are reflections, tributes and tears. Kobe Bryant was definitely an icon and you don’t have to be a sports or NBA fan to realize what is going on here.

Kobe provided an unprecedented impact.

The numbers—18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA team, NBA Most Valuable Player, two scoring championships, fourth on the league’s all-time regular-season scoring list and fourth all-time on the postseason scoring list.

And there was Bryant as the unofficial spokesperson to opening more doors for girls to play the game, and, consequently, the WNBA as a legitimate league.

We mourn his untimely passing. We shed tears about the untimely passing of his 13-year old daughter and for the others in this tragic incident.

Sunday was not supposed to happen. Not to Kobe Bryant, to you, me, family, friend, foe, anybody.

We never expect to write about the passing of an icon in the prime of his life, and that, my friends, is tough to swallow. Kobe Bryant, as we are aware, was like family.

We always look at the world of fun and games, sports, as that diversion from the trials and tribulations of everyday society. However, athletes are no different. They have families, pay the bills, laugh, cry, celebrate, etc.

But there is that distinction of doing something special on the field or in the arena. That, my friends, was Kobe Bryant also. That’s what made him a part of our family.

Like others, who left too soon, there are the questions as to why? How can this be? Bryant left a legacy. He was family to the NBA, sports, the world, nation, and to those in the inner city of America.

Allow this columnist to reflect on the passing of other sports icons with New York roots and beyond. The late Gil Hodges, Rocky Marciano, Roberto Clemente and Thurman Munson are just a few that were difficult to comprehend.

Stunned, we were then. Hodges, manager of those 1969 Miracle Mets and the fatal heart attack that took his life on a golf course. Clemente, a fatal tragedy on his humanitarian mission to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Gone too soon, Marciano, the undefeated heavyweight champion, and Munson, the Yankees Captain. We will never forget their love for aviation and how they made their impact as sports icons.

We mourned then, as we do now for Kobe. And years later, as we do with others, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 will mark a day to forever remember.

So, what made Bryant an icon? It was more than breaking records and becoming an all-time NBA great for two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant was always in that category with Clemente, Munson, Marciano and others. Leader, role model and hero, all attributes that we want our athletes to be.

Again, a reflection: In the classroom, as Bryant continued to develop into an All-Star and potential Hall of Famer, the kids would always say “Kobie.” They would emulate his moves on the court.

It was that identity with becoming the next Kobe Bryant, as the kids do now when calling out the name LeBron James.

“Polished with simple,” said John Guapo Maresca. “But you had to be an idiot to not admire what Kobe Bryant was.”

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 02: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks down the court against the New York Knicks on February 2, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Kobe at the Staples Center, the house he built. Maresca, when he was training fighters in Los Angeles, was one of those fans lucky enough to witness Kobe courtside.

They became that unofficial family in the world of sports, the same vision of supporting youth and its goals.

Monday, Maresca closed his boxing gym early in Rahway, New Jersey. The kids were too distraught to train. They mourned Kobe and raised two Lakers jerseys with numbers 8 and 24.

The reminder: Those who play the game are role models. They become idols with their legacies. It took weeks to get over those untimely deaths of Clemente, Marciano and Munson.

You don’t have to be a fan to realize the future that will be a long period of adjustment and it will take time to fully understand why Kobe is no longer with us.

But that legacy and memories of Kobe Bryant will always remain with us, forever.

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