For more than 20 years, Kobe Bean Bryant was Los Angeles.
Whether you loved him or hated him, everyone respected him.
That four-letter first name was unavoidable for more than two decades, whether it was on the blacktops in Venice or in a high-rise office when a piece of trash was shot into a trash can.
He won an Oscar, five NBA titles, an MVP, two NBA Finals MVPs, Olympic gold medals and countless other honors that made him seem like he could not be a mere mortal, but a helicopter crash Sunday provided the harshest reminder that he was in fact of this world. He was one of us.
He was LA.
And so, on Sunday, LA mourned.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
As much joy as he brought the City of Angels with five NBA titles--and those were joyous times--his untimely death at the age of 41 brought even greater sadness.
This wasn't the death of a movie star. He was a part of LA.
Every other night for seven to nine months per year for two decades, Bryant and the Lakers would enter living rooms across Southern California and become part of the family. Whether he was wearing no. 8 or no. 24, purple or gold, he was Los Angeles.
Not everyone had to be his biggest fan, but it would impossible to dispute his greatness. And that greatness did not simply last 48 minutes while the ball was in play.
After his Achilles tendon tore and he was no longer able to conjure his magical, maniacal winning ways, Bryant opened up to the media and regularly answered questions in Spanish. He spoke with more depth and even joked around.
Worth noting, he grew up in Italy speaking Italian, but he had a special mind, so adding a language wasn't much of a task for this unique genius.
Then, there was the video of him playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," which he allegedly learned to play by ear. A teammate recorded him because he took over the hotel piano. He was special.
Jerry West, the Lakers general manager when Bryant entered the league in 1996, crystallized the genius of the man the city lost on Sunday.
West said of Bryant during the 2015-16 farewell tour, "If you had a chance to watch and just a chance to watch him do things on his own, you'd say to yourself, 'Well, this is a savant,' but he happened to be a basketball player."
To LA, he will always be more than a basketball player: Rest in peace, Mamba.