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What losing Kobe Bryant means to a generation

It's one of the moments I'll never forget. As I began to stir from a Sunday afternoon nap, I reached for my phone to check my notifications. My home screen was busier than usual with my on-screen wallpaper barely visible.

I reached for my glasses and to my shock, I read the headline "Basketball great Kobe Bryant killed in a helicopter crash (TMZ Reports)".

Granted the source and the way that news travels these days, I was quick to discount the story hoping it could be a hoax and that TMZ somehow got it wrong. With each passing moment, it appeared that the news wasn't a hoax as more reputable sources began confirming the initial report.

We had in fact lost Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in the horrific accident.

The news was sobering, friends texted me in shock. "Dude. Kobe man," one said. "(The) NBA isn't my thing, nor are the Lakers. But man...f***ing sucks. He was larger than basketball since he retired in 16," another friend added.

That's a good way of putting it, "larger than life." The reason this death hurts is that Bryant is the first superstar of my generation that we viewed as immortal, nothing could touch him. Love him or hate him, he was a player that created memories that lasted a lifetime.

He was someone that we grew up with. I fondly remember reading my Sports Illustrated for Kids while eating breakfast before school and seeing an exclusive interview with the basketball star. It wasn't uncommon to see the late, great SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott making some nonsensical commentary about Bryant as he pulled off the impossible on the hardwood.

How about the family events I spent playing my cousins in NBA Courtside with Kobe Bryant on the Nintendo 64?

Bryant accomplished tremendous things on the court but his retired life off the court was worth noting. He was an advocate for growing the women's game. Bryant frequently trained with his daughter Gianna, passing on his vast knowledge of the game of basketball. The duo recently went viral with a clip of the father and daughter discussing x's and o's during a Brooklyn Nets game.

The former NBA great also was an ambassador for the game of soccer. It wasn't uncommon to see Bryant supporting the United States Women's National Team or supporting the men during World Cup years. Just a couple of weeks ago he partnered with Major League Soccer to advertise a new brand of a sports drink. Kobe even won an Oscar for his short film, "Dear Basketball."

Bryant was an influential figure in sports and in pop culture. The fact that he is no longer with us will weigh heavily on the hearts of many. The best way to carry on his legacy is to remember this quote about being resilient. "Everything negative -- pressure, challenges -- is all an opportunity for me to rise."

Title photo credit: Fox 43 York, Pennsylvania

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