Rapid Reactions: How Suns fans will remember NBA legend Kobe Bryant
Former Los Angeles Lakers guard and NBA legend Kobe Bryant was among nine killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.
The news shocked fans and enemies of Bryant alike.
Suns fans might most remember him for being part of the 2010 Lakers team that beat out the Suns in the Western Conference Finals.
Bryant is the Lakers franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378).
Here are the rapid reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
I love basketball and always will. I have felt many feelings while watching it and always will. And as a 29-year-old, Kobe has been a part of that experience for the better half of my life.
Like many fans today, that’s what has made his passing so difficult to comprehend.
It has been a jarring reminder that as much as I can personally admit that I welcome the distraction sports provide, that can only go so far before we’re brought back around to real life.
Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf
As a father and husband, my first thoughts are just with Kobe’s family. I feel like that every time there’s a tragic death, whether the deceased is a sports hero or not. When I think of Kobe as only the basketball player, there’s such a strange emptiness.
Kobe’s death forces us to accept what we always knew: He’s in the conversation as the greatest of all-time. With Kobe alive, it was OK to lie to ourselves and allow our hatred to cloud our opinions.
Now, at the time of his death, we realize how great it felt for our hearts to be broken by Kobe. Don’t believe me?
Which feeling would you rather have: the May 2010 Kobe knocking the Suns out of the playoffs feeling or the recent January feeling of watching the last 50 games of the year knowing the Suns aren’t going to the playoffs?
We loved being in the position to have an enemy. Now we’re in the strange position of wanting our enemy back.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
In basketball terms, it’s a simple legacy. One of the best ever. Suns fans may not have cared for Kobe much during the on again, off again rivalry between the Suns and the Lakers, but that simple truth is undeniable. He was one of the best ever. There is a jarring reality when an athlete dies in their prime or very shortly removed from their prime. Dale Earnhardt. Payne Stewart. Derrick Thomas. It’s a shocking sensation that takes longer than normal to process. Kobe Bryant is gone.
In life terms, it’s more complicated given the allegations of rape that stained one chapter of his career. Those stains faded over time to the point where they were very rarely mentioned. Perhaps that’s what forgiveness looks like. Or maybe most fans chose to ignore the negative to focus on the positive. Either way, it seems more of a footnote on a day like today.
As for a top memory of Kobe vs. the Suns, nothing compares to Kobe and Raja Bell. Nothing. But his performance in game 7 vs. the Suns in 2006 – the one in which he took three shots in the second half and was accused of quitting on his team – certainly stands out. As does his personal message to Devin Booker during his final game in Phoenix. As does the notion that once upon a time Kobe would have been agreeable to joining the Suns.
Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
It’s a reminder that the rich and the famous are not immune to tragic accidents. We all know that. And yet it still seems unbelievable.
Who would’ve guessed in Nov. 1991, when Earvin “Magic” announced that he was diagnosed with the HIV virus and retiring immediately, that Johnson would outlive the next great Lakers legend.
Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player. Obviously. He was a one-man show, the most compelling scorer to emerge following the retirement of Michael Jordan. He was a great villain, especially for fans in Phoenix.
And how strange that Planet Orange has lost two of its sporting nemeses in one month – Bryant and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com Web Editor
He was unabashed in his desire to dominate. In the pre-analytics era, it drew debate. If he’d come around now, there’s no doubt he would play the same exact way. Or would the older Bryant think the younger Bryant have changed?
I don’t think Mamba’s legacy is about the numbers or the titles or the fights with Shaq or his rape case.
It’s how he was a legend and hero and a failure and a villain and a person who tried to be better and hopefully best.
Bryant always tried to be better — as a player and human being — and I think that’s the most important part of his story.
The worst part of the news is what his family is going through. Bryant lost his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in the helicopter crash. There are other families involved, too.
What’s left is a heartbreaking reminder about life and death. I think that’s what my wife, also named Gianna, told me as I stared at this laptop confused about why tears were welling up.
Bryant’s immortality will be remembered.