Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error In the end, Kobe Bryant didn’t need to be one of the NBA’s star of stars to be remembered, but he was one.This isn’t the end of his playing career that we always talked about, but the real end that came all too soon in that devastating helicopter crash, reminding us not of Kobe’s basketball career but how precious each day of his life was, and ours is.People around the world came together to mourn as they do in few instances. There was a moment of silence at the Grammy Awards. Fans at the NFL’s Pro Bowl chanted Kobe’s name. Dallas owner Mark Cuban said the Mavericks will retire Kobe’s No. 24. President Donald Trump posted condolences as did former President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, Whoopi Goldberg, Taylor Swift, the Alabama football program, Real Madrid Football Club, Novak Djokovic, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.Kobe was 41 and had been retired for almost four years but in our mind’s eye remained forever young, if no longer the willowy 17-year-old the Lakers acquired out of Lower Merion High School in 1996 who stood 6-5 and weighed 165 pounds, rather than the imposing 212 he would bulk himself up to. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe heartbreak is the painful recognition that there was his career, which seemed long and glorious … and his life that was all too short.Moving into a special niche, Kobe had remained Kobe to the end of his career in 2016, three years after blowing out his Achilles tendon and ceasing to be the player he had been.For the symbolic farewell that seemed so important – he actually lived to create content his whole life – he willed himself to go out spectacularly with that 60-point game that started with five missed shots, prompting all to wonder if he was going out with an 0-for-20.Being Kobe, ever defiant, he never stopped firing and never would. He wound up taking 50 shots, outrageous even for him, and made 22, amazing us one last time.In a career that was nothing short of mythic, we all thought that was the perfect ending … but it didn’t turn out to be the ending, at all. So much of what we thought about Kobe wasn’t really true, much as we wanted it to be as we followed him through what seemed like 20 years worth of change … from his arrival in 1996 as a spindly teenager who dared to feud with the mighty Shaquille O’Neal, and even fought him once … to the post-Shaq years after the Lakers chose Kobe over him … to the angry years following Bryant’s arrest for sexual assault in a case that was settled, when Kobe bristled daily at the press … and in 2007 tried to arrange a trade to the Bulls, excoriating the Lakers brass up to and including Jerry Buss, whom he was caught on camera calling an “idiot” … to the triumphant days when Kobe chilled out en route to his fourth and fifth titles in 2009 and 2010.As diminished as his play was after Achilles surgery in 2013, Kobe turned into a grown-up version of his post-adolescent self, less edgy and happier, with his final season an adoring tour de force around the league which had once scorned him.He had won. Best of all, he understood it. He hadn’t surpassed Michael Jordan, as he once had dreamed, but he had come to understand how unnecessary it was to base a career on being the GOAT, modern slang for Greatest Of All Time … crazy as it is that this rarest of distinctions now has its own acronym so we can debate it endlessly, and fruitlessly.Bryant had figured that out. Being Kobe, NBA star, husband and father, with the youngest of their four daughters arriving last June, seemed enough.No NBA player ever deserved what he got from the game more than Kobe, who poured more into it than any player ever had, working out 365 days a year, lifting weights, stretching, icing, going under the knife all around the world to avail himself of the most cutting edge medicine.I used to wonder what he would replace all that with when his playing career was over. So, surely, did he.The answer he decided upon was, when he was gone, he was going to be gone. No coaching, as, indeed, he could have. No running the Lakers front office, as Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson asked him to do. No announcing. No involvement with basketball, except for some video breakdown he did for ESPN, which he could do by himself from home.Instead, he formed his own media company. In a feat that no former athlete had ever accomplished, he won an Academy Award for an animated short subject that he wrote, himself: “Dear Basketball.”It feels the more heartbreaking that our final glimpses of him would be of a man having a ball.He attended few Laker games. The last was Dec. 29, a victory over Dallas with Kobe in a stocking cap, hoodie and quilted vest, sitting courtside next to his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, whom they called Gigi … and who would perish in the helicopter crash with him.During that game, LeBron James came over. Kobe sprang up and the two hugged.James had arrived in the 2003 draft, also straight out of high school, seven years after Kobe, which is like two generations in NBA time. For years, the gregarious LeBron was leery of the solitary Kobe, but that ended years ago when they became teammates and friends on the U.S. national team.James is now a Laker, on Bryant’s old turf, with many of Kobe’s fans still pining for him … even as the comparison became irresistible last week as LeBron moved ahead of him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.That was Saturday night in Philadelphia … the night before that helicopter went down and the all-time scoring list stopped feeling important.With Lakers fans on sports talk programs upset at anything that seemed to eclipse Bryant, Kobe made it clear how he felt about being passed up.“Stop,” he told a columnist recently.“When LeBron came to Los Angeles, he is now a Laker, he is part of our brotherhood, part of our fraternity, and we should embrace him that way …“Appreciate what he is as an athlete while he’s here. Appreciate this guy, celebrate what he’s done, because it’s truly remarkable.”Kobe he was when he arrived. Kobe he remained, as much as he grew up.Kobe he left us, with Gigi and seven more, all too soon.