On the day Kobe Bryant was selected to be posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, which Dodgers great resembles his legacy?
There are great athletes, and there are legends. There are players who dominate on the field or the court, but their impact remains there, encapsulated within a box score. And then there are players who transcend sports, who somehow impact people’s lives beyond the game in which they play.
Kobe Bryant is one of those legends. He represents something bigger than basketball, his legacy on full display as he has been selected to be posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The All-Time great Lakers star tragically passed away earlier this year, robbing Los Angeles and the basketball community a chance to celebrate this great achievement with him. Perhaps the best way to honor him on this date is to remember the traits that made him so special.
In doing so, I started thinking about Dodgers players who have had a similar impact on the game that they played, as well as society at large. The first name that came to my mind was Jackie Robinson. Kobe and Jackie are two athletes who dominated at their respective sports, with ties to Los Angeles, and forever remembered by simply mentioning the number they wore on the back of their jerseys.
Of course, Robinson entered the sports world long before Bryant was even born. You could argue that modern-day athletes, particularly African-American athletes, are a reflection of Jackie, and never the other way around. But legacies are living and breathing things, and therefore, lifted from the constraints of time. They are left for us to honor and remember in our own way.
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To be mentioned alongside Kobe Bryant in terms of performance, you need to be a player who dominated your sport. You need to be a player who was most heroic when the results mattered most. You need to be a fierce competitor, while also cerebral.
Jackie Robinson characterized all of those things.
The speedy infielder played under intense pressure every single game. Imagine breaking the color barrier and traveling to games in Missouri or pretty much any white-dominated ballpark in 1947. Despite every possible reason to fail, Robinson excelled. He won the Rookie of the Year in ’47, finished fifth in MVP voting, and led the league in stolen bases.
The superstar athlete, who attended Muir Technical High School in Los Angeles, and later UCLA, won the MVP award in 1949, the same season in which he won a batting title and swiped a league-best 37 bases. In 1955, he became a world champion when the Dodgers won the World Series.
Number 8. Number 24. Number 42. All you need is a number to remember these two great athletes. However, their impact stretches far beyond the numbers printed in a box score or across the back of a jersey.