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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Kobe Bryant

In LEVEL. More on Medium.

A year later, it’s time to contend with the man’s whole self — his growth and wrongs in equal measure

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

A year after Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s sudden death, it still feels like an open wound. Some people are able to remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. That’s not the case for me. What I remember is the feeling: first apprehension, then a visceral pang as my heart sank into the soles of my feet. I do remember, quite clearly, a gap in both time and information when news filtered out about the helicopter crash. …

Mourning broke through our self-constructed dams and made us vulnerable. We still haven’t gone back to inspect the damage.

Photo: Apu Gomes/Getty Images

Even a year after Kobe Bryant’s death, his memorial service at the Staples Center still feels like something ripped from our darkest dreams. Some of our most visible sports heroes emoted in ways we hadn’t really seen before or even imagined possible. There was Shaq, the hulking Superman who had torn down rims and plowed through grown men, weeping over both his former teammate and his sister, whom he’d lost to cancer months prior. We saw Michael Jordan, a man we’d only seen cry when winning championships or lamenting that he couldn’t rip out people’s hearts on the court anymore…

Remembering Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant, and John Lewis

Every year, we reacquaint ourselves with grief. Yet in 2020, grief became the backdrop to everything. If it wasn’t a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities, it was unchecked…

LEVEL Best Man 2020

Remembering Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant, and John Lewis

Illustration: Kingsley Nebechi

Every year, we reacquaint ourselves with grief. Yet in 2020, grief became the backdrop to everything. If it wasn’t a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities, it was unchecked police violence that robbed folks like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor of their lives. Just because the year featured death writ large, though, didn’t mean it wasn’t still capable of a punch to the gut — or three.

In the past 12 months, we lost a trio of Black men who loomed large, men who had spent their lives becoming legends. In January, it was Kobe Bryant, whose post-NBA career…

Growing up in the Bay, Beast Mode was my Mamba Mentality, and it made me who I am

Photo illustration

First and goal

With the recent tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, I’ve been reflecting on the role of influential athletes in my life, beyond their performances on the court or the field. Although my brother and I traded cards for Kobe Bryant and emulated his moves on playgrounds during recess, I admit I never idolized him to the degree others did. Growing up in Northern California as I did, I never adopted his Mamba Mentality. But I had something similar.

I had Beast Mode.

For me, no player in sports history has more directly influenced my journey and no…

An open letter to those who insist on remembering Kobe Bryant at his lowest point

Photo: Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Dear White women,

You won’t believe this, but I’m going to say it anyway: It’s okay to take time before you speak on something. That pause — that period of respectful restraint — doesn’t sweep things under a rug. It doesn’t cast a different light on those involved. In times of mourning or celebration, it’s totally fine not to immediately bring up someone’s demons. Some issues, some people, and some pasts are nuanced.

Shortly after the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant — who died in January in a devastating helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and…

Seeing the late legend dominate the 2002 All-Star Game almost didn’t happen a million different ways

Kobe Bryant and Baron Davis are pictured during the NBA All-Star game at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA on February 10, 2002. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I’ll tell you how the story ends: with me, four rows off the hardwood floor, watching Kobe Bryant win his first All-Star Game MVP while being booed by a savage Philadelphia crowd. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, still dating, are within shouting distance. To their right, the champ — Muhammad Ali. How I landed there sounds like a wildly embellished recollection, something out of National Lampoon’s Vacation. But it all happened.

Cue “Holiday Road.”

I never saw the superhuman version of Michael Jordan play live when he was hoarding championships in Chicago. There was no fix for that, but watching…

Gianna Bryant wanted to dominate the court with the Mamba Mentality her father invented

Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks on December 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. Photo: Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

A tiny powerhouse came across my timeline a few years ago, playing a mean game of one-on-one with a future NBA Hall of Famer. The setup was adorable yet fierce: Gianna “Mambacita” Bryant stayed toe-to-toe with her father, Kobe Bryant, her small frame seemingly quadrupled by his. With quick footwork, she executed her layup, and a viral darling was born.

The impact of 13-year-old Gianna Bryant may have been fleeting, but it was breathtaking. As she entered her teen years, it was clear she wasn’t interested in being a thing of beauty or a socialite influencer like so many of…

I was 12; he was 19. In one moment, I learned that the future wasn’t guaranteed.

Bryant in 1998, the year his path crossed with the author’s. Photo: MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images

I met Kobe Bryant once.

I was 12 years old, on a trip to Los Angeles with my dad and my sister. We spent a night walking around Venice, and wandered into a Barnes and Noble because my dad wanted to buy John Lewis’ new memoir. It was late enough that the store was about to close, late enough that it was essentially empty. We were at the cash register; that’s when I turned around and saw him.

Tall. Taller than impossibility, with an afro that made him taller. He was wearing sweatpants and an Adidas shirt and he looked…


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