Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
A somber mood has been over Los Angeles during various points of the past year-plus as the city mourned the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter accident. It rocked the Los Angeles Lakers organization, sports community and world as a whole.
The incident occurred a day prior to fifth annual Justin Turner Golf Classic, which was being held at Sherwood Country Club, only a few miles from where the helicopter went into a Calabasas hillside.
Turner and his wife Kourtney made the decision to carry on with their event, and it marked the beginning of several Los Angeles Dodgers sharing how they identified with Bryant as well. “I think the hard part for everyone is he grew up in the living room with you,” Turner said that day.
“Watching him play for so many years, my generation, when you think sports in L.A., Kobe is the top of the top. Just really feeling for his family — Vanessa and the girls. It’s difficult to even wrap your head around. As much as he’s done on the court, the things he was doing and getting involved in after his career, are remarkable.
“You don’t find superstars of his caliber continue to be that influential in a community and for the game of basketball, especially fo women’s basketball. He’s a guy I always looked up to. Every time I had a water bottle or piece of trash or picking up balls in the cage, you grab it and shoot it towards the trash can or ball basket and yell, ‘Kobe!’
“I’m just glad I got to grow up watching him and seeing everything he did and how amazing of a man he was. It’s pretty special.”
Clayton Kershaw added: “It’s so devastating. I got to meet him a few times and what everybody said about him, you just felt that in the room. As far as his presence and just what he meant to the city,” Clayton Kershaw said.
“Being here now, playing sports here for the last 12 years, everybody talks about Kobe. That’s the guy. You feel for everybody. You feel impacted even if you didn’t know him. To his wife and daughters, I just feel terrible.
“I hope they can find some comfort in the legacy he left and millions of people he impacted. You can’t even fathom something like that. To lose a spouse and kid in the same day, nobody should ever have to go through that. I hope they find the strength somewhere.”
When the Dodgers held their first team meeting of Spring Training three weeks later, manager Dave Roberts incorporated one of Bryant’s quotes to highlight the importance of appreciating the daily work required to reach the pinnacle.
Then during the regular season, the Dodgers held a pregame ceremony to honor Kobe and Gianna. Players and on-field personnel donned Nos. 8 and 24 Lakers jerseys, and Vin Scully narrated a special video.
After hitting a three-run home run, Kiké Hernandez did a shooting motion and shouted “Kobe” upon crossing the plate. “We lost Kobe a little too soon,” Hernandez said that day.
“What he meant to not only this city but the entire world, to see the impact he had not only on basketball players but athletes and non-athletes all over the world, I think that tells you what type of person he was.”
During the final days of the regular season, Turner wore a custom pair of Adidas cleats to honor Kobe and Gianna. After the Dodgers won the World Series, Mookie Betts posted a video narrated by Bryant, and Julio Urias donned a jersey of his when visiting a mural that commemorated the final out of the World Series.
Kershaw used Kobe for inspiration
Up until last year the postseason had represented plenty of heartbreak for Kershaw and the Dodgers. In effort to continue bouncing back from that disappointment, Kershaw kept in mind the same Bryant quote that Roberts shared with the team.
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