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.

Throughout his 20-year career, Kobe rewrote the NBA record books with his scoring prowess and intimidating persona. The legend of the “Black Mamba” will forever live in infamy. When Kobe retired from basketball, it was not to sit on the sidelines. He used his passion and expertise in sports to embark on a new career that included business ventures, acting, an Oscar-winning film, a book, and philanthropy.

It has been taught to me that if you expect a return, it is necessary to make a deposit. You cannot just sit back and hope for the best. You have put in the time, the effort, the commitment to whatever it is that drives you and motivates you. This is part of the mamba mentality that Kobe lived by and I think passed onto my generation. In Kobe’s own words he said that “Mamba mentality is a constant quest to find answers. It’s that infinite curiosity to want to be better.” He goes to say “everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.” I personally love this mamba mentality and I believe that future generations who hear of Kobe Bryant will know that it was a part of who he was and a part of his legacy that will live on forever.

Clemente’s death and Kobe’s birth were four years apart. Kobe was four years older than Clemente when he died. They were both legends in their respective communities on and off the field. Their lives are serendipitously intertwined forever. I believe the aftermath of their deaths will be similar. While I was not alive in 1972, I know that Clemente’s death had a similar impact on the world like Kobe. If he is remembered mote than 45 years after his death, I know that Kobe’s legacy will never fade from this world.

Zachary Sherman is a senior at Wilton High School.

He shares this column with three classmates.