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Hextall on Hockey: Kobe Bryant gave fans young and old something to believe in

In this March 28, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves to fans before the start of an NBA game against the Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City.
In this March 28, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves to fans before the start of an NBA game against the Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The word “NO” came bursting out of my mouth as the headline — Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash at age 41 — flashed across my Twitter feed.

… then to read that his 13-year-old daughter was also taken in the tragedy, and then to find out two more families were involved.

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From disbelief to a pit in my stomach, the tragic news stuck with me all day, into Monday and even now.

I’ve never met Kobe Bryant. I’ve never interviewed him as an athlete. I’m a casual fan of the NBA, but yet, the loss of his life truly affected me. I felt it.

Why is that?

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As people, we have empathy for those who lose loved ones, especially in such a sudden and tragic way, but it’s more than that.

Through the vehicle of sport, Kobe Bryant touched millions of lives around the globe.

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Kobe Bryant as an athlete soared through the air; he showed creativity in his art form, which was a skilled dance across a hardwood floor. He competed. He was fierce. He was a champion.

Kobe Bryant gave fans young and old something to believe in. Something to look forward to. Something to dream about.

This is what sport does. This is why the loss feels so great to so many.

In Bryant’s own words: “it’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you — or don’t. So don’t take it lightly.”

Rest in peace, Kobe. Your legacy will live forever.

Tributes pour in for Kobe Bryant amid chopper crash investigation
Tributes pour in for Kobe Bryant amid chopper crash investigation