With the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, the NBA 2020 loses one of its greatest legends and the inspiration of an entire generation. Today, the “Black Mamba” would have turned 44.

It has been 940 days since the basketball world changed forever

On 26 January 2020, Kobe Bean Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other occupants died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. The accident caused worldwide grief and horror.

For his wife Vanessa and their three daughters, today will certainly not be an easy day, as the NBA legend would have turned 44.

Bryant closer to Jordan than anyone else

For those who know Michael Jordan mainly from highlights, Kobe Bryant was the best basketball player in the world for years – and the man who came closest to the GOAT’s difficult legacy.

Ruthless on the court, blessed with a killer instinct that few athletes in this world possess. This irrepressible will, the “Mamba Mentality”, drove Bryant to incredible heights. Outstanding on the field, uncompromising off it. Everything was subordinated to success.

Where colleagues like Shaquille O’Neal put on weight in the summer and arrived at the start of the season completely out of shape, Kobe trained. Like a man possessed. And so, at the peak of his game, became more than just an exceptionally good player. Kobe became an ice-cold NBA terminator, merciless, unstoppable.

That’s how he conquered his place in the basketball Olympus. Countless successes and games for eternity made him immortal even in his lifetime.

81 points, five NBA titles

81 points against the Toronto Raptors – the second most ever by a player. 62 in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. Five championship titles, two Finals MVP trophies, the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008. He still put up an incredible 60 points in his very last career game.

And Bryant is fourth on the all-time scoring list, having been overtaken by LeBron James just days before his death. Bryant has long since handed over the reins at the Los Angeles Lakers to the “King” and bowed to his successor with his last tweet ever. “Keep bringing the game forward King James. Respect my brother,” Bryant wrote.

Idol and hate figure at the same time

With his incredible ambition, which almost bordered on obsession, Kobe became an idol for some and a hate figure for others.

He made opponents and teammates suffer. No one was safe from him. If a teammate let himself down in practice or in a game, Bryant made him feel it. If an opponent showed weakness, the “Black Mamba” would bite him ice-cold.

But regardless of how you felt about him, you always had to respect Bryant, you could only bow down to his greatness.

Kobe Bryant only wanted one thing: to win

Almost every amateur and professional basketball player has stood on the open court or in the hall, running down the seconds in his mind, imagining himself wearing the Lakers jersey with the 8 (or 24) – and set out to win the game.

Even a throw with a crumpled paper ball into the bin is still celebrated today with the words “Kobeeee”. Thus Bryant, like Jordan before him, became the role model for an entire generation, the inspiration for countless current NBA players who grew up with his highlights and emulated him.

He lacked the modesty and likeable manner of Dirk Nowitzki. But that didn’t matter to him. He didn’t want friends, he didn’t want a popularity award. He only wanted one thing: to win.

With the legendary words “Mamba out”, the superstar announced his departure from the NBA stage in 2016 – after his tragic death, the world will miss him forever.

But his legacy remains.