Philadelphia Eagles: Kobe Bryant was a fan just like you or me

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) /

While Kobe Bryant will be remembered for a lot of things, one that always made the 18-time All-Star aggressively relatable was his love of the Philadelphia Eagles.

I was sitting in my bed this Sunday afternoon and a ‘breaking news’ flashed across the screen on MSNBC.  The network was monitoring a helicopter crash that had claimed the lives of its (then assumed) five passengers and had created a small brush fire.

The network then returned to their normal coverage, and things seem to return to normal, albeit with a hint of sadness in the air over the loss.

The calm before the storm.

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Moments later, my phone vibrates with a Twitter notification – a WOJ Bomb. With the trade deadline two weeks away I gleefully opened the app to see if the Philadelphia 76ers had finally pulled the trigger on a season altering deal and mentally prepared myself to write about Derrick Rose, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Davis Bertans or whomever the team had just acquired.

Unfortunately, what I read made writing such a piece feel rather meaningless.

Kobe Bryant, the Philadelphia native who started at Lower Merion before spending two decades as the face of the Los Angeles Lakers, had tragically passed away along with his 13-year-old daughter GiGi and the rest of the flight’s passengers.

What? No.

… what?

Kobe Bryant, like Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant? The Black Mamba? The name kids in school would yell before attempting to toss a paper ball into the trash, or a ping-pong ball into a red solo cup? 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Defense, Academy-freaking-Award winner Kobe Bryant was… gone?

Wha-, how? No, it can’t be true.

Unfortunately, it was true. While the details were, and largely still are, a bit hazy, the 41-year-old father of four had passed away along with his daughter on the way to her game, leaving the world of sports without one of its truly transcendent stars.

But I don’t want to talk about Kobe as a player, because frankly, he wasn’t my player. I’m not a Lakers fan and I don’t claim to be an expert on the last great scoring guard the league will ever see. No, my appreciation for Kobe is for his fandom.

To put it simply: Kobe Bryant was a fan just like you or me.

Despite spending a solid chunk of his developmental years living in Italy with his family, Bryant remained a life-long fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, and would often rep the team whenever possible.

Whether wearing Donovan McNabb jerseys out and about during his prime, or talking to the Eagles at the behest of Doug Pederson before a game against the Los Angeles Rams during the 2017 season, Bryant bled green like a true blue Philadelphian.

Heck, the last public image Bryant shared on social media was of himself wearing an Eagles hat courtside at a Lakers game. It didn’t matter where the soon-to-be Hall of Famer was; he stayed true to himself, his family, and his fandom.

And for as crazy as it sounds based on his selfishness on the court, off of it, Kobe was a fan too, a fan with a ton of knowledge he wanted to share.

When LeBron James surpassed his place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Bryant was quick to post a congratulatory message to his Lakers alumnus. Bryant was also more than happy to share his on-court knowledge with his league’s younger players like Kyle Kuzma, D’Angelo Russell, and even players like Jayson Tatum – a member of the Lakers’ generational rival, the Boston Celtics.

Watch any NBA game today, and you’ll be hardpressed not to find a pair of Kobes at least once. Furkan Korkmaz, the Sixers’ surprise sixth man, wore two pairs of Kobes for the majority of the season before changing over to a pair of red Nike Air Freaks in 2020.

For this current generation of NBA players, there might not be a more popular player in basketball period, a legacy that will certainly only grow as it exaggerates from legend into myth.

But Bryant’s true legacy, more than his on-court accomplishments, or the number of jerseys he has hanging in the rafters of the Staples Center will be what he left behind: His wife Vanessa, his three surviving daughters, the students of the Mamba Sports Academy, and the millions upon millions of fans who took his passion to heart.

Kobe was passionate about his family, Kobe was passionate about basketball, and to a lesser degree, Kobe was passionate about the Philadelphia Eagles and where he came from. In a weird way, it’s oddly comforting to know that he tuned in every week to watch the Birds play, read the same articles (Bryant was a dedicated reader), and maybe even held similar opinions on how to make the team better.

Does Kobe like Carson Wentz? Was he going to root for Andy Reid in the Super Bowl? These are opinions we will unfortunately never know.

A non-fan’s thoughts on Kobe Bryant. dark. Next

So while Kobe Bryant’s storied life may have prematurely come to an end, his story is far from over. It lives on through everyone he touched both on and off the court and the millions more watching at home. While we may not all be 6-foot-6 Hall of Famers, we can all strive for greatness in our own way, and work just a little bit harder even when it feels like it’s for not. Will I even win an Academy Award? Probably not, but who’d have thought retired professional basketball player Kobe Bryant actually would? That’s that Mamba mentality.