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Four years after his tragic death, Kobe Bryant still serving as an inspiration for NBA players

kobe bryant
Harrison Hill via Imagn Content Services, LLC

LOS ANGELES – The day inevitably will spark painful reminders of Kobe Bryant’s passing. With Friday marking the four-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, the tragedy has also elicited inspiring reminders on why he meant so much to so many in NBA circles.

 “Everything about him inspired me to want to be a basketball player,” said Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, an LA native who starred here at Compton High School and USC. “That was my favorite player growing up. He was a mentor of mine, and somebody I looked up to and could go to for advice.”

Bryant’s advice often depended on the person and the challenge he or she faced. Few could match Bryant’s resume during his 20-year NBA career (1996-2016), which ultimately ended with five NBA championships, a fourth-place standing on the league’s all-time scoring list and two Olympic gold medals. The Lakers also plan to unveil Bryant’s statue outside of Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 8 before a game against the Denver Nuggets. Nonetheless, Bryant’s words carried significance because his message could apply to both stars and role players alike.

“He wanted to be the best. He wanted to be the greatest,” said LA Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who played with Bryant from 1998 to 2001. “Just seeing the hard work that he put in every day of being the first to the gym and last to leave. In the summer time, he worked in the morning at 5:30 … Just every day, you step on that court between the lines and you want to compete at a high level. We owe it all to Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant an inspiration off the court as well

kobe bryant
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant didn’t just inspire the NBA community for what he accomplished on the court. Four years into his retirement, Bryant proved even those around him wrong that he could manage life without basketball just fine.

He managed a story-telling production company (Granity) and a training center (Mamba Sports Academy). He recorded a sports-related podcast aimed for kids (Punies) and a video series aimed for devoted NBA fans (“Details”). He even won an Oscar, Sports Emmy and Annie Award for his short film, “Dear Basketball,” an honor Bryant said he considered even more meaningful than any of his NBA accomplishments.

“Anything he wanted to get involved in, he wanted to be the best at,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who played against him as an opponent and was one of Bryant’s assistant coaches (2011-13). “He was going to do each and everything possible in terms of gathering resources and information. So he was coming into a situation, whether he had common knowledge of it or not, prepared.”

Nothing could have prepared the NBA community for Bryant’s passing four years ago. Since then, plenty spend nearly every day thinking about him, their memories and his philosophy.

“You still feel his presence in a lot of different areas, not just in basketball, but in life,” Ham said. “He made a huge impact.”

Mark Medina is an NBA insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on XInstagramFacebook and Threads.

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