NBA legend Kobe Bryant died at age 41 Sunday following a helicopter crash in California. Eight other passengers died, including Bryant’s daughter Gianna, age 13. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Mohamed Abdullahi grew up in awe of basketball legend Kobe Bryant. 

The fourth-year in public health shed tears after the Los Angeles Lakers, the team for which Bryant played during his 20-year career, lost the NBA Finals in 2008. Abdullahi’s parents didn’t understand.

“Why are you crying? You don’t even know this person,” they said. 

He couldn’t explain it then, and he can’t explain it now, but Abdullahi got emotional again 12 years later after hearing the news that one of his sports idols died at age 41 in a California helicopter crash Sunday alongside Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, and seven others.

Bryant’s basketball acumen includes five NBA titles, 18 All-Star appearances, the fourth-most points in league history and the second-highest single-game scoring performance of all-time, but his legacy will go far beyond just his achievements on the court.

“You can see that it transcended basketball,” Abdullahi said. “He was more than being a basketball player. He was an individual who was great at his craft. He invested all his time in it, and he showed us what it meant to be a hard worker and really put everything you got into something that you love.” 

The nature and impact of Bryant’s career inspired an outpouring of grief from not only close associates in the NBA community, but fans and supporters from across the world. That was no different at Ohio State.

Landon Horton, a fourth-year in communication, said his father called him on his way home, and after speaking with his mom and grandma, what he referred to as a “surreal” moment began to set in.

“A lot of people knew about his work ethic and how he would stay late after practice and people always just knew him as that dude who had a never give up attitude,” Horton said.   

Bryant’s “mamba mentality,” a phrase derived from the nickname “Black Mamba,” has become synonymous with the intrinsic drive that many recognized as his greatest strength on the court.

“Growing up playing basketball, everybody knew Kobe,” Horton said. “He represented the pinnacle of basketball and everybody wanted to be just like him.”

Bryant retired in 2016 after a final game that saw him score 60 points –– one of several statistical feats that came to define Bryant’s career. His 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 remain the second-highest total in NBA history.

Bryant’s personal past was not without flaws. In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old in Colorado, but the case was eventually dropped when the accuser declined to testify. A civil case was settled out of court.

Two years removed from his on-court career, Bryant became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Short Film and was involved in multiple philanthropic ventures.

Bryant was the coach of his daughter Gianna’s youth basketball team, the Mamba Lady Mavericks. He was on his way to coach that team when the helicopter crashed.

“I saw the news from TMZ first, and that’s when my heart just sank right away when I saw that,” Josh Moeller, a second-year in biology, said. “I was like, ‘This can’t be real. There’s no way.’”

The Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers game was originally scheduled for Tuesday night, but the NBA postponed the contest “out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is deeply grieving the tragic loss,” the NBA said in a statement.

 The game’s postponement is one of many indications that for many, the wounds suffered from Bryant’s death will take more than a few days to heal.

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and their three daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.