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Remembering NBA great Kobe Bryant, a star athlete who transcended sports

Fans across the country are mourning the loss of NBA great Kobe Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter. Known on the court for being both fiercely competitive and spectacularly talented, Bryant was the rare athlete who managed to transcend sports. Jeffrey Brown reports on why he resonated so widely and how he is being remembered.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally tonight, the legacy of NBA great Kobe Bryant.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at how Bryant is being remembered and why his too-short-life resonated with so many.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Around the country, around the world, the shock of Kobe Bryant's death continued, and the tributes poured in, outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he dazzled as a player.

  • Rene Sotomayor:

    Like a lot of people are saying, today's the day that part of L.A. died. And it's been a tough day. And I know I'm going to shed a lot of tears in the days to come.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Inside basketball arenas in other cities, past foes paid tribute to a fierce competitor they all admired.

    L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers battled Bryant in championship series.

  • Doc Rivers:

    Yes, that DNA that very few athletes can ever have, the Tiger Woods and Michael Jordans.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And people beyond the world of sports stopped in their tracks to remember, as at last night's Grammy Awards.

  • Alicia Keys:

    We love you, Kobe.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Bryant was the rare athlete who transcended sports. On the court, from the time he made the jump from high school directly to the NBA, he was an extraordinarily gifted, tenacious and focused talent.

  • Kobe Bryant:

    As a competitive person, the thing that I do is look forward. You can't change things that were. You can't change the outcome. What you can do is control what you can control, which is your performance.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Del Harris was his first professional coach.

  • Del Harris:

    All the players that have come after him have learned about his work ethic and what it takes to be the best that any individual can be.

  • Man:

    Kobe Bryant.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    He played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers, won five championships, was an 18-time All-Star, won two gold medals representing the U.S. in the Olympics.

    The list of accomplishments and magical moments goes on and on, including a night in 2006 remembered by another all-time great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, on Twitter.

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

    I had the privilege of being there when he scored his 81-point game. And it was something that I will always remember as one of the highlights of the things that I have learned and observed in sports.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Just Saturday, today's biggest star, LeBron James, passed Bryant as the third all-time leading scorer in NBA History. James remembered being 15 and meeting one of his idols.

  • LeBron James:

    I went to ABCD Camp, and he came to talk to all the kids that were there, and I happened to be one of the kids that was there.

    And I was just listening. I was trying to soak up everything I could. And I remember one thing that he said, he was like, if you want to try be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you have got to put the work in.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Bryant's life in the public eye wasn't without controversy. In 2003, he was accused of sexual assault by an employee at a Colorado hotel. Prosecutors dropped the case when the woman declined to testify. A civil lawsuit was settled out of court.

    In recent years, Bryant was well into establishing his post-basketball career, as a businessman, a writer and filmmaker — a short film titled "Dear Basketball" won an Oscar in 2018 — and overseeing the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

    Former President Barack Obama, a friend, wrote: "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act."

    He also became a champion of women's sports and the professional WNBA, prompted in large part by the interests and talents of his daughter Gianna.

  • Kobe Bryant:

    The best thing that happens is when we go out, and fans will come up to me.

    And she will be standing next to me. And they will be like: And you got to have a boy. You and V. got to have a boy, man. You have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.

    She's like, oy, I got this.


    You don't need no boy for that. I got…


    Like, that's right. Yes, you do. You got this.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Gianna, known as Gigi, died in Sunday's crash at age 13.

    Kobe Bryant leaves behind three other daughters and his wife, Vanessa. He was 41 years old.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So very sad.

    Video courtesy ESPN.

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