Growing up a baseball fan, I learned about the story of famed Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente: all-star, MVP, world champion, and humanitarian. The last word in this list is the most impactful one. Until his tragic plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972, Roberto Clemente spent a large portion of his off-season doing charity work throughout South America and the Caribbean. Clemente was a role model and legend to an entire generation of people, just like the late Kobe Bryant.
On March 27, 2009, I went to my first Nets game at the IZOD Center with my dad. During the pregame warmups, my dad motioned for Sasha Vujačić, a Lakers player at the time, to come over for an autograph. As a shy 6-year-old, I was hesitant to get the signature so my dad got it for me. Soon after, I saw Kobe Bryant out of the corner of my eye and waved to him. He waved back at me. I don’t think it was until I was a few years older, following Kobe on social media, seeing him post about his kids and his community, and reading about his signature “Mamba Mentality” that I fully appreciated how genuine his wave to a 6-year-old was.