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Kobe's Career: He Did It The Right Way

The sports world suffered one of its biggest tragedies of the 21st century when future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant perished in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles.

What makes this tragedy even more heartbreaking is that one of the other victims was Kobe's 13-year old daughter, whom the L.A. Lakers legend was taking to her own basketball game.

The sports world has had many unspeakable tragedies, from the Marshall University football plane crash in 1970, the massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and close to home, the Boston Marathon bombing in the spring of 2013.

But this one is heartbreaking for basketball fans everywhere, whether you're a Celtic-loving Laker-hater or a casual rooter.

Like him or not, Kobe, an 18-time All-Star who spent his entire career with the Lakers, transcended into superstardom at a time when the NBA really needed it.

In the late 1990's, Michael Jordan had retired and his Chicago Bulls were breaking up. The league needed a new face. Kobe was it. It was only fitting that his five NBA championships were won with Phil Jackson as his coach.

Kobe, unlike LeBron James, also didn't need to woo other superstars to L.A. to win his championships. And before you say "what about Shaq," the legendary big man signed with the Lakers in the summer of 1997, Kobe's rookie season. As great as they were, they had to overcome the Utah Jazz of Karl Malone and John Stockton, much like Jordan had to get past the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons.

Kobe also respected the greatness of the Celtics. The second Big Three of Paul Pierce - who grew up in the shadows of the L.A. Forum - Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen had to dispatch the Kobe/Jackson Lakers to annex Banner 17.

The teams even met in the Finals again two years later, with Kobe's Lakers evening the score. They probably would've had three Finals matchups had Garnett not gotten hurt midway through the 2008-09 season.

Kobe was also a rare 21st-century athlete who spent his entire career with one organization. Free-agent hopscotching is not uncommon in sports in this millennium, especially in the NBA. He endured personal and professional ups and downs over the course of his career, but never went to management and demanded a trade.

Kobe is beloved in Los Angeles the way the likes of Tom Brady, David Ortiz, Bobby Orr and Larry Bird are revered in Boston and in New England. He was also respected by many in these parts because he played the game the right way, didn't constantly complain to the officials, and didn't have other superstars on speed dial needing them to sign with the Lakers.

Not only did the sports world lose one of the greatest athletes of this century, but a wife and mother lost a husband and a daughter far too young. Kobe had a lasting impact on the game of basketball and he will be missed.

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