The Iconic Legacy of KOBE BRYANT

Monday February 1, 2021

This article is dedicated to all of those who have also lost a loved one this year, and to pay tribute to these amazing people who have left us. Let’s celebrate their lives, and let it serve as an inspiration in moving forward towards the dawning of the great year ahead. -MAC



Late in the evening of January 25th, I drove to the city of Northridge in Los Angeles to visit a friend and to have dinner at King’s Fish House Restaurant in the Calabasas area. Early at 2 am in the morning, I headed back to the city of Corona. I was very careful and drove really slow since I was driving through a very thick white blanket of cloud-like fog…something that I haven’t seen in a very long time. The last time I personally experienced something like this was back in 1994, when Northridge was struck with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that left a life-altering impact to many. At that instant, I had a worrisome thought that such a particular weather condition might cause a tragic accident and could be a sign of another disastrous event yet to come. To me, it seemed like a paranoia. But it turned out to be some sort of a premonition. What happened later that day just stunned us all. We’re left at a loss for words, in a state of disbelief, and grief. I didn’t realize that it was just the beginning of an unstable long year ahead of us. That sad day of January 26, 2020, the legendary athlete, Kobe Bryant. 41, and her 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven others namely, Ara Zobayan, John and Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton perished in a helicopter crash due to that particular unusual weather condition. A month after, on February 20th, my father, a WWII Veteran Retired 1st Lt. Nestor B. Ceniza passed away. On February 24th, while a memorial was being held in the honor of Kobe and his daughter Gianna in Los Angeles, CA., we were also having a funeral service for my father in Bataan,Philippines. With these two incidents coinciding with one another, the feeling of loss got a little too personal. Not so shortly after, the coronavirus pandemic hit. We now have a new normal.

The passing of Kobe Bryant, for me, appeared to be the catalyst of a series of unfortunate events. It’s almost the end of this year so it’s now time to look back and appreciate his life and iconic legacy as a philanthropist, an exemplary athlete, a talented artist, a good friend, a supportive mentor, a loving husband, and a dedicated father.

Known Facts About Kobe:

Kobe Bryant was born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up and attended Lower Merion High School. He was drafted out of high school as the13th overall pick in round 1 in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, but almost immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. During his 20 year career (1996-2016) he earned numerous achievements and awards. Some of his most notable awards and career highlights include 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, NBA Most Valuable Player, 18x NBA All-Star, 4x NBA All-Star Game MVP, and 3x Olympic Gold Medalist. At 6’6 and 212lbs, he sported 8 and 24 on his jerseys throughout his NBA career. He was married to Vanessa Laine Bryant for nearly 20 years and have four daughters, Natalie-Diamante, 17, Gianna Maria-Onore, 13 (deceased), Bianka Bella, 3, and Capri Kobe, 1.

Things That You May Not Know About Kobe:

• Origins of his name and nicknames. He inherited the unofficial middle name “Bean” from his father Joe, who played for the 76ers and was nicknamed “Jelly Bean” but this unique middle name didn’t make it to his birth certificate. He was named after a Japanese steak, “Kobe.” Mamba came from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movie. He named himself “The Black Mamba” as a way to deal with the struggles he was going through off the court in 2003 and 2004

• NBA Bloodline. Kobe was destined to be a basketball player. His father Joe was a 6-foot-9 forward and a former first-round pick that played eight seasons in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets. His uncle on his mother’s side, John “Chubby” Cox also made it to the NBA but only lasted one season in the league (1982-83) when he played for the Washington Bullets.

• Childhood in Italy. Kobe and his family moved to Italy after his dad’s retirement from the NBA to play basketball in the Italian League.They stayed there until Kobe was 14 years old and fell in love with soccer.

• Famous crush and prom date. When he was 17, Kobe met singer and songwriter Brandy at the1996 Essence Awards. A short while after he asked her to be his prom date which ended up working out for both of them since Brandy never got to attend her own prom.

• Rap career and love for Hip-Hop. Kobe also had a brief stint in the rap scene from 1992-1998. As a high school student, Kobe was part of a Wu-Tang style rap group called CHEIZAW with some of his friends at school. They got the name from the Chi Sah gang in the 1979 martial arts movie called Kid with the Golden Arm. After high school Kobe would perform in rap battles in clubs on occasion and eventually go on to sign with Sony Entertainment to release his album Visions. Unfortunately, his first single never dropped and that was the end of his rap career.

• Interesting first encounter with Michael Jordan. Kobe was known to be determined to be the best. When he met NBA legend Micheal Jordan at the 1999-2000 season game between the Lakers and Bulls, Phil Jackson said that before the game he went up to Michael Jordan and told him: “ You know, I could kick your ass one on one.”

• A man of many languages. Kobe spoke fluent Italian for having lived in Italy until he was 14 years old. He is fluent in Spanish for being married to Vanessa Laine who is of Mexican descent, and learned it more to be able to communicate with his Spanish teammate, Pau Gasol. Additionally, Kobe was also semi-fluent in French and also learned some Slovenian and Serbian from teammates like Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic.

• He learned to play piano for his wife. The Bryants faced their fair share of difficulties, but there were plenty of amazing moments during their marriage. Kobe unleashed the “Mamba Mentality” in 2011 and learned to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear for his wife, Vanessa Bryant, as a bold romantic gesture to save his marriage after Vanessa filed for divorce. He got the opportunity to play alongside the “Loring String Quartet” live. They have been happily married ever since.

• He wrote a poem for his love of the game of basketball. In 2015, when Kobe announced his retirement, he wrote a poem to the sport of basketball called “Dear Basketball”. In it, he recalls his time in his youth playing the sport of basketball and falling in love with it. Legendary Disney animator Glen Keane turned the poem into a short animated film. It took the 2018 Academy Award for best animated short film.

• One of the richest athletes of all time. He is estimated to be worth $500 million. Apart from NBA league earnings he had many brand endorsements. Adidas signed him on at $48 million which led to his famous KBH shoe line. Later he switched to Nike, but also had other endorsements with popular companies like McDonalds, Nutella, and Sprite.

• Kobe as a philanthropist. He also supported many charities and foundations which include the NBA Cares Initiatives, After-School All-Stars, Make A Wish Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. One of the most impactful philanthropic works he organized was his Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family foundation, which was later called the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation following the death of Kobe and his daughter Gianna.

• Name tattoos,The autopsy noted Bryant’s tattoo of a crown on his right shoulder, above where his wife’s name, Vanessa, was imprinted. On the lower right arm were the names of three of his four daughters: Bianka Bella, Natalia Diamante and Gianna Maria-Onore, the daughter who died with him.

• Lakers Spanish teammate Pau Gasol honors the Bryant family. Pau and Catherine Gasol named their newborn daughter Elisabet Gianna (Ellie Gianna) after Kobe’s deceased daughter Gigi to honor Kobe’s family.Vanessa Bryant is their baby’s godmother.

A personal glimpse of Kobe after retirement through a Q and A with Mr. Chad Willardson:

I would like to give everyone a closer look at the regular life of Kobe as a supportive father of four daughters and a good family man before Kobe and Gianna passed away, so I connected with Mr.Chad Willardson. He is the incumbent re-elected City Treasurer of Corona, California, President and Founder of Pacific Capital, a financial management-based company and author of “Stress Free Money.” Chad’s daughter McKinley played against Gianna and her team wherein Kobe helped in coaching. Like Kobe, he is a good family man.. a loving husband to Amber, his wife of 15 years and a dedicated father of his five children. After getting his answers to my questions, I won’t be surprised if his daughter McKinley will become a star player for WNBA someday.

When was your first time meeting Kobe and Gianna Bryant?

“We first met Kobe and Gianna Bryant back in 2017 when my daughter McKinley had a tournament basketball game against Gianna in Anaheim, CA. Kobe was helping coach Giana’s team, the Mamba Sports Academy. McKinley played for OC Rhythm. McKinley’s coach, Vernon Henderson, built a good relationship with Kobe and they made arrangements for our teams to play against each other because our teams were very evenly matched.”

What do you remember about your first time meeting Kobe and Gianna? Did anything stand out to you?

“Kobe was very competitive, yet friendly. Kobe seemed just as focused on strategy and technique for his daughter’s team as he was for the Lakers, even though at the time our girls weren’t even in high school yet. He was very much into every single play and was giving coaching tips throughout the games, every time we played each other. He was clearly a dedicated father and someone who wanted to help promote girls basketball as much as possible. He told me after one game that McKinley was dominant and they couldn’t find an answer to stop her. She had 24 points and 22 rebounds that game against Gianna’s team.”

What did you talk about and when was the last time you spoke to Kobe/ Gianna?

“The last time I spoke to him was the last time we played them… we were scheduled to play them again in March of 2020, but of course the tragedy happened on January 26th, 2020.”

Most people know of Kobe by what they read or see in the media. What is something that media coverage misses out on Kobe as a person?

“I don’t believe people know how dedicated of a father he was… or how much of a religious and faithful Christian he was. He seemed to have changed a lot since he retired, and was so focused on mentoring his daughters and leaving a legacy.”

What was your reaction when you first saw the news about their disappearance and the helicopter crash?

“Both McKinley and I were in complete shock and we were overcome with tears of sadness. It was almost too overwhelming to even believe. McKinley and I got to attend the funeral service memorial in LA and it was a very emotional day for us.”

“From my family to yours, stay safe and may God bless you and keep you in the palm of His hands.”

Kobe, a fierce competitor and great mentor

Kobe, the philanthropist and a man of many talents

Kobe, a legendary athlete….bigger than life itself

The Black Mamba

Bean, determined to be the best

You will be remembered Kobe

Happier moments for Gianna and Kobe…a strong daughter and father bond.

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