Dear Kobe

Dear Kobe,

Thank you.

Thank you for the memories; for the infinite inspiration; for the endless highlights.

Thank you for putting everything you had on the floor for 20 years, whether it was a regular season game in February against Portland or Game 7 against the Celtics in 2010.

Thank you for your final game when you dropped 60 and kept Utah out of the playoffs, one of the most magical moments I've seen on a basketball court.

Thank you for all the online victories in 2K and the 21 victories you inspired in my driveway.

Thank you for the legacy that will forever be ingrained in the minds and memories of basketball fans of present and future, American and international.

What you did for the game of basketball, what you did for us as fans, will never be forgotten.

You may be gone, but legends never die.

Rest in power, Kobe Bean.

Rest in peace Gianna Bryant, who was certainly going to be a dominant figure in women's basketball. Rest in peace John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli. Rest in peace Sarah and Payton Chester. Rest in peace Christina Mauser. Rest in peace Ara Zobayan. My heart goes out to Vanessa Bryant and Kobe's family, as well as the families of those who passed away in the crash.

What happened on Sunday morning is still difficult to come to terms with. The last two days had been hard; really hard. How could a legend and pioneer of the game be gone so soon in such a tragic way? 41-years-old, alongside his young daughter and seven others. To call it devastating is an understatement.

I don't think I'll ever forget it. I'd just returned from Chipotle and began eating. I opened Twitter and saw the TMZ article. Believing what I read was a hoax, I googled "Kobe Bryant", found the link, and clicked. I realized it was on the official site and my heart sank. After a few minutes of scrolling through the internet looking for any sign that it wasn't true, I went down to my room and looked at the Kobe jersey that hangs behind my desk. I called my girlfriend, Haley, and did my best to fight back tears.

"Kobe Bryant died."

I hung up, put my face in my hands, and cried. I didn't know the death of a basketball player I'd never met could affect me so much. I'd retweeted his final tweet congratulating LeBron for passing him on the all-time scoring list merely hours before. How could this be real?

Kobe is my favorite basketball player ever. The first NBA game I went to was Bulls/Lakers sometime around 2005. From that instant I became an NBA fan and Kobe was there. For years I watched him dominate and torment opposing defenses. I watched him play in All-Star Games and NBA Finals. I watched his final game (and cried three times). I watched him win an Oscar and build an empire off the court, continuing to inspire future generations of hoopers. I watched him mold GiGi into a budding star and uplift women's basketball unlike anyone of his stature.

Now, I'll watch him be remembered. To see the celebrations and tributes across the NBA, across the world, has been incredible. It's been comforting. The impact he made on basketball and so many's lives has been known, but to see it in action is truly amazing.

The legend of Kobe Bean Bryant will forever remain at the forefront of basketball's history. What he did as the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all-time is symbolized by the two jerseys hanging from the rafters of Staples Center. Highlight reels on YouTube will allow us to relive his most special, career-defining moments. Soon, he'll be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.