Number 2: Kobe Bryant
There is no greater symbol of the greatness of Kobe Bryant than the outpouring of grief when he tragically passed away in a helicopter crash that killed nine others, including Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna on January 26th, 2020. For weeks, most of Southern California congregated in L.A. Live across from Staples Center where Bryant played most of his career for the Los Angeles Lakers, fans paid their respects for their fallen hero who embodied the will to win with his “Mamba Mentality.”
In his 20-year career all with the Lakers, Bryant transformed himself from a 17-year-old rookie fresh out of high school to one of the greatest to play in the NBA. Bryant finished his career as the third all-time leading scorer (33,643) and is the all-time Lakers leader in career points, games played, steal, free throws, and three points made.
Bryant helped lead the Lakers to five NBA titles his first three consecutively (2000-02) pairing with Shaquille O’Neal as the most awesome one-two punch in the NBA. His last two titles came with Bryant as the unquestioned team leader as the Lakers closed out the decade with consecutive titles (2009-10). Bryant was named to 18 NBA All-Star games and was named to 11 All-NBA First teams and nine NBA All-Defensive teams. Bryant was league MVP in 2008 and was a two time NBA Finals MVP (2009-10).
Bryant was a two-time Gold Medalist helping the US win in basketball at the 2008 and 2012 games, and he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. His legacy is cemented as one of the greatest Laker of all-time with both his number eight and 24 uniform numbers hanging in the rafters of the Staples Center.