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Monday open thread: Which athletes have inspired you the most?

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Kobe Bryant inspired generations. Which athletes have inspired you?

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC at AFC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The sports world lost a legendary figure on Sunday.

The passing of Kobe Bryant is a heart-wrenching moment, perhaps one of the most surprising deaths of a superstar in recent memory. The impact he had on basketball, and sports in general, is almost impossible to fathom. Bryant inspired generations with his play. You would see his jerseys everywhere. The Kobe versus LeBron debate is entrenched in our culture of endless comparisons. It became a meme to yell “Kobe!” after tossing something.

On a Sunday that was supposed to be upbeat with the Pro Bowl, it soon became somber when news of the helicopter crash broke. Darius Slay, among the Detroit Lions at the Pro Bowl, tweeted out:

Our own Mike Payton summarized Bryant’s impact on him, just a glimpse of the icon that he was:

In a culture so intertwined with sports, the legends of the games have become heroes and role models. We look up to the best, and Bryant was certainly one of them.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which athletes have inspired you the most?

My answer: As a non-Michigan native, my answers will likely differ from a majority of readers. Regardless, this illustrates what makes sports so impactful: everyone has their own idols, and it can be a worldwide name like Bryant or a mere local athlete.

As a football fan growing up in Vancouver, Canada, the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League were a subject of devotion from me. Of all the players, I looked up to Geroy Simon the most. He shredded stats on the field, holding the CFL record for career receiving yards. Equally impactful was his off-the-field presence. He often had a smile on his face, and was a generally classy and respectful individual. Even now in his position as a director of scouting, his role as a mentor extends to young players.

I imagine that Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Matthew Stafford will be common answers for Detroit Lions fans, and for good reason. Sports have such a dramatic impact on our lives. We often get caught up on the stats that players put up, but there is an emotional attachment that really drives home our appreciation of these athletes. Geroy Simon himself was inspired by Walter Payton. From a superstar career to a singular climactic play, these are the memories that make us all sports fans.

Kobe Bryant impacted the sports world like few in history have. Thank you, Kobe. You are a hero to many.