York community reacts to Kobe Bryant death


Mahdis Habibinia | Executive Editor (Online)

Featured Image: Two court side seats holding a bouquet of roses honoured Kobe and Gianna Bryant in last Friday’s Lakers game. | Courtesy of Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, a helicopter was traveling forward at about 152 miles per hour and rapidly fell at a rate of about 23 miles per hour, crashing into a hillside in Calabasas, California. The nine lives lost on the helicopter that day were Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, as well as Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and pilot Ara Zobayan. 

In the hours that followed, the death of 41-year-old NBA legend Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves and despair around the world. 

On the Friday following the incident, the Los Angeles Lakers played their first game since the tragic loss. Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were honoured with a series of tributes including: empty courtside seats covered with roses; 24-second and 8-second violations to honour Kobe’s retired numbers; 20,000 Lakers shirts with the number 24 covering the seats of the Staples Center where the game was hosted; and an emotional eulogy delivered by fellow NBA icon LeBron James. 

From big-name brands, fellow NBA players, and celebrities alike, the death of Kobe impacted many. The York community is not an exception. 

The York Lions basketball games against the Brock Badgers on January 29 paid tribute to Kobe as well. There was an 8-second violation from both the Lions men’s and women’s teams, and a 24-second violation in response by the Brock Badgers, all in honour of Kobe.  

   Legends never die. Kobe was an inspiration to many of us who’ve been fans of basketball. I wish there was more time to have the chance to meet him, but words can’t express the sorrow of a lost superstar,” says Khalid Desai, second-year engineering student. 

Alex Barreto, fourth-year history student and Founders College Student Council president, is a big Kobe Bryant fan. Barreto, whose birthday was only two days before Kobe’s death, owns a four-year-old boxer dog named after the NBA player who also dresses up in Lakers jerseys. Similar to what the Lakers and the York Lions did, Barreto and his intramural basketball team also paid an 8-second violation tribute the week of Kobe’s death. “I was telling my team, ‘Guys, this week we have to go out harder than ever. Mamba mentality. Forget shooting like James Harden, we’re shooting like Kobe,’” says Barreto.

“It’s always tragic when a celebrity passes, but no one has made the world stop like this person. One thing that Kobe inspired in me, and I think it’s one of my favourite qualities about myself, is never giving up and always working hard,” Barreto continues.

And for some he didn’t just impact a sport, he impacted an entire generation, says Michelle Gomes, fourth-year environmental studies student. 

Although that’s not to say the famous basketball player didn’t have errors in his ways.

   This guy learned a whole language just so he could cuss out another basketball player. He was that dedicated to bullying or being mean,” adds Barreto. “He was dedicated to anything he did, even if it was being petty.”

Many students, including Barreto, also mention that Kobe was known not to pass. For students like Mimuna Mohamed, third-year psychology student, who grew up watching and playing basketball as a favourite family activity, that was seen as unsportsmanlike. 

“Team work and team spirit was drilled into our heads so anything divergent from that was seen as selfish and egotistic,” says Mohamed. “I personally was not a fan of Kobe’s game and tactics. I thought he played a selfish game and hogged the ball a lot. He didn’t like to pass the ball. He didn’t have a lot of assists: 4.7 assists per game compared to LeBron James at 7.4 and Michael Jordan’s 5.3 assists per game. Kobe took all the winning shots and glory.”

The death of a man who has evidently left his mark on a sports league’s history is also felt by those who are not fans of the sport. 

“Although I’m not really a basketball fan, what I can say is that he was an inspirational being in our world,” says Nanjeeba Chowdhury-Mohammad, second-year criminology student.

However, what seems to be a general consensus about the father of four is his dedication to his kids.

Chowdhury-Mohammad recalls seeing plenty of pictures involving Kobe and his family on social media. “He was indeed someone who would put their family over their career and that’s how it should be.”  

“Kobe died doing something amazing and that’s being a good father. You can look at the affluence of his lifestyle but that’s neither here nor there. But he was doing something amazing by being a good dad to his daughter,” agrees Glenn Singh, fourth-year social work and political science student.

“Lately I have been warming up to him, seeing him teaching the game to his daughter, Gianna. It’s every female basketball player’s dream to have a former NBA dad. That showed a different side of him: his selfless, gentle, and loving side,” says Mohamed. 

Still, some students believe the individual should be perceived as exactly that — as an individual and as a whole. 

   While Kobe may be on the list of the greatest of all time, that’s amazing, but that’s only one part of the equation. Kobe also has the sexual assault allegation over his head,” explains Singh.

Students like Singh who talk about Kobe’s legacy as “being this generation’s Jordan” also talk about the importance of remembering the individual as a whole. 

In 2006, Kobe released a statement regarding the sexual assault allegation, stating, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

The charges against Kobe were dropped because the accuser refused to testify, and the civil suit was settled out of court. Only Kobe Bryant and his accuser know what happened 17 years ago in that hotel room.

Singh asks, “Does him dying mean we have to change the narrative? Or can we not look at the whole package and say, ‘Yeah you were amazing, but you were flawed.’” 

Fans like Barreto, who have adopted the Mamba Mentality as an inspired motto, acknowledge the flaws while still viewing the NBA player’s dedication to the sport and his career through a lens of inspiration. “Kobe knew that he did something wrong. He knew that he was gonna get bashed for it, and he did, his reputation went down, but he had to rebrand, he didn’t give up.”

   It’s important for us to remember that it’s possible for us to admire and think positively about a person as a sports hero, but it’s also important to realize that they’re not perfect. Kobe had an intersectional personality. This doesn’t mean he’s good, bad, or either,” says Singh.

Mohamed views death through spiritual principles, but Kobe’s death impacted her emotionally. She distanced herself from social media because it was sensationalizing his death, and began to watch Kobe’s old interviews to understand his philosophy on the court. These interviews included narratives about the NBA player’s discipline and dedication to the sport.

That helped Mohamed understand the player on the court. “What we saw wasn’t ego or boastfulness, but a man who sacrificed so much and pushed himself to extraordinary measures to master the art of basketball and love for his fans.”

Many students, in fact, do not speak about him in generalized terms. This is because it’s clear that there are many sides to the NBA icon. “There’s the side that never gave up, great basketball player, great father, but then there’s the bad stuff. Some people thought he was a shitty teammate, he didn’t pass. Some thought he was a bully,” says Barreto.

“And you can still say, ‘Yeah, he was an amazing basketball player, but he was a flawed human being.’ It’s important to remember there are different parts of this,” says Singh.

About the Author

By Mahdis Habibinia

Former Editor

Mahdis is a York University graduate with an Honours BA in Professional Writing, a Certificate in Spanish Language Proficiency, and an expected Master of Journalism '23. She is also fluent in Farsi. She began her journey with Excalibur as a contributor in 2017 then worked as executive editor from 2018-2020. For the 2020-2021 year, Mahdis served as editor-in-chief. She is curious about the world, BIPOC stories, and passionate about writing as a platform for advocacy and representation. She hopes to one day add to the diversity of Canadian media both in the content it produces and as a staff member. When Mahdis is not writing or editing or correcting people on the spelling of her name, she is likely marathon-viewing thrillers and crime shows that oddly bear no impact on her sleep.


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