On Jan. 26, 41-year-old NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna along with seven other passengers were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Cal. on their way to training practice.

It seems like just yesterday my grandfather and I were watching Kobe’s Oscar winning short film “Dear Basketball in which the legend explained his complex relationship with the sport he spent decades perfecting.

Growing up in southern California, the Staples Center where I watched Kobe bring back five championships was as close to me as Emporia is to the Kansas City Chiefs. I felt an immense wave of pride to live so close to the purple and gold of the LA Lakers.

Even when I moved to Kansas in 2008, my family brought their Laker love with them. To hear my grandmother's voice crack on the phone, telling me Kobe Bryant had died, was a bit more than I could handle.

“We mourn not only one of the greatest athletes of all time, but an active and engaged member of our community and a visionary whose impact was only beginning to be felt by society,” said the Mamba Sports Academy in a statement posted on their website. “He will be remembered most for the care he placed and pleasure he took in educating the next generation, none more so than Gianna, Alyssa, Payton and their Mamba teammates.”

Like all athletes, Kobe was so much more than what he was on the court. He was a father, a husband, a teacher and a fiercely charitable man. From “After-School-All-Stars” to the “Mamba Sports Academy,” Bryant was involved in a multitude of causes to help benefit young people, particularly those of color or those that needed a voice to guide them.

Kobe Bryant gave his life to the improvement of his team, family and the sport he loved so much. Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant. He will forever be remembered as number 24, our “Black Mamba.”

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