Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: NBA legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash
NBA legend Kobe Bryant had been flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter when it crashed, killing them and seven others in January.
Editor's Note: It's that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports' all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost's latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.
A few months before the coronavirus pandemic stopped the NBA season dead in its tracks and a players’ boycott for social justice temporarily halted the re-started season, the league, the sport, players and fans had been forced to pause by the untimely death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash.
Bryant had been flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter when it crashed in the hills of Calabasas, killing them and seven others.
It was the first time in many years the league and its fans were having to contend with the loss of a legend. Despite his five NBA titles, 18 All-Star appearances, and two Olympic gold medals, Bryant was never quite spoken of in the same breath as Michael Jordan or LeBron James. But Bryant was an important bridge between the NBA’s Jordan era and the LeBron era. He was known for his relentless pursuit of perfection. So much so that at his memorial in February, Jordan recalled how Bryant would message him at 3 am to discuss basketball. He was one of the rare superstars in recent history to spend all his career with one franchise, spending his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
His legacy was complicated by rape allegations by a 19-year-old employee of a Colorado hotel in 2003.
Bryant’s death led Kohli, LeBron to introspect
His untimely death made a lot of athletes take a moment to pause and reflect. India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli spoke of how Bryant’s death had put things into perspective for him. “You start looking at things from a different point of view suddenly and you want to enjoy every moment you're going through. You realise that what you're doing at the end of the day is not the most important thing. The most important thing is life itself,” said Kohli, who became one of the rare Indian cricketers to go on paternity leave in December.
During the first game the Lakers played at the Staples Centre after Bryant’s demise, LeBron, the man who took the torch from Bryant at the Los Angeles franchise and in the league, spoke about seeing a different version of Bryant after retirement.
“These last three years, out of all the success he had in basketball, it felt like these last three years was the happiest I’d ever seen him, being able to just be with his daughters,” said James about Bryant, who was a father to four girls and was frequently spotted at NBA games with Gianna.
“When we’re playing this game of basketball, we give so much to it, and this is my 17th year, so I know. We give so much to it where, unfortunately, your family comes to the wayside at times. Because when you want to be great at something, and you want to be the best, and you become so driven that you won’t let nothing stand in the way of it. Not even your own family sometimes. Hug the shit out of your kids.”
The Lakers lost that first game to the Portland Trail Blazers. But they went on to win the title in a season like no other. There could be no better tribute to Bryant.
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