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The sports world was dealt a shocking blow Sunday, when one of the NBA's most iconic players, former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, was killed in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles.
Also killed in the crash were Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, two of her traveling basketball teammates and their parents. Nine people total lost their lives in the crash.
Bryant's legacy was becoming one of the game's legendary players. He is slated for induction into the NBA Hall of Fame later this year.
But perhaps his greatest achievement came off the court, where Bryant became a noticeably changed man in the aftermath of the biggest controversy of his career.
In 2003, six years into his NBA career, Bryant was accused of sexual assault, stemming from an incident in Colorado. Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee. He went on trial during the season, flying to Colorado for the trial.
The charges against Bryant were ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence. A civil settlement was reached out of court.
To Bryant's credit, the aftermath of the case forced him to change, as a person, to rehabilitate his public image and to save his marriage.
In the early part of his career, Bryant embraced fame, fortune and the lifestyle of being a young, rich celebrity in Los Angeles.
In the years that followed, Bryant proved to be nothing short of a model citizen, a devoted and loving husband and a dedicated and loving father to his four young daughters.
After his retirement, Bryant had poured himself into other projects, including movie production. He actually won an Academy Award for a short film he had produced, which was based off of an article he had written for The Players' Journal to announce his retirement from the NBA.
He also had dedicated his life to his children - particularly his daughter Gianna, who was pursuing her own blossoming basketball career. Bryant served as the coach for her traveling team and no doubt spent countless hours working with her on the ins and outs of the sport.
Instead of being a man whose career could have been derailed by infidelity and the lifestyle of fame and fortune, Bryant rehabilitated his marriage, his family, his career and his public image.
He became the player an entire generation of basketball players emulated. None of that could have happened if he had not addressed his off-court mistakes and changed his ways.
Bryant was well known as the hardest worker in the sport. But I'd bet that the people who knew him best would tell you that he was just an all-around good guy, a devoted husband and a loving father.
Kobe Bryant changed his own narrative, and his life was better for it.
It's tragic that the world won't get to see what projects he had in store for the future, or whether his daughter would fulfill her dream of being the greatest player the WNBA had ever known.
Fighting cancer
The Mt. Lake Area-Comfrey basketball teams will hold their annual Coaches vs. Cancer night Saturday, when the Wolverines host Windom in a girl/boy varsity doubleheader in Mt. Lake.
There will be a sub sandwich meal served Saturday night in the gym hallway, beginning at 5 p.m. Proceeds from the meal will go to retired Mt. Lake firefighter Ron Melson.
MLAC players also are selling decals for the Wall of Hope and there will be a silent auction throughout the night. During halftime, games of lightning will be played, with prizes for the winners.
Fans also are encouraged to wear pink to show their support.


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