Just two years before his sudden death at the age of 41, Kobe Bryant gave a special shout out to his daughters during his jersey retirement night in December 2017. The basketball legend's close bond with his four children – daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, and Bianka, 3, as well as 7-month-old Capri – is gaining attention following his Sunday passing in a helicopter crash alongside Gianna and seven others.
"You guys know that if you do the work, you work hard enough, dreams come true," the late retired Lakers player said at the time, speaking directly to his daughters, according to Us Weekly. "You know that, we all know that. But hopefully what you get from tonight is that those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when don't feel like working — you're too tired, you don't want to push yourself — but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That's the dream. It's not the destination, it's the journey."
"If you guys can understand that, what you'll see happen is that you won't accomplish your dreams, your dreams won't come true, something greater will," he added. "And if you guys can understand that, then I'm doing my job as a father."
Bryant entered the NBA as the 16th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets and was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for veteran center Vlade Diva. He played 20 years with the Lakers before retiring in 2016. Just a year after his retirement, the Lakers retired the No. 8 jersey, which he wore for the first part of his career, and the No. 24 jersey, which he donned for the latter half of his time on the court.
"When I first came in at 8, is really trying to 'plant your flag' sort of thing," Bryant told ESPN in 2017. "I got to prove that I belong here in this league. I've got to prove that I'm one of the best in this league. You're going after them. It's nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff."
"Then 24 is a growth from that," he added. "Physical attributes aren't there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve."
Following his death Sunday alongside Gianna (who was planning on collegiate career at the University of Connecticut and making it to the WNBA), fans and others in the sports world are calling for the NBA to retire his numbers league-wide.