I will never forget January 26th, 2020. For me personally, it was a day that encompassed the full spectrum of our most powerful emotions. Shock, loss and anguish but also commemoration and celebration. What yesterday reminded me of mostly is the fragility of the human experience. Kobe Bryant was a man that once shot and made two free throws with a ruptured Achilles tendon and then proceeded to walk off the floor by himself – yet he was gone just like that.
Firstly, prayers and condolences to all those people affected by the tragic helicopter crash outside Los Angeles yesterday, particularly the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families who all lost loved ones in the horrific event. The Bryant family was not the only one affected and I feel safe to assume that Kobe would want us to remember that other people are suffering as well.
To me, Kobe was someone that I always rooted against. I am the first to admit that LeBron is my favorite player and the Orlando Magic are my favorite team. After Kobe’s Lakers beat my Magic in the ’09 NBA Finals, I may have even actively detested him. However, there has never been a player that I respected more than Kobe “Bean” Bryant. The tireless work ethic, the complete confidence and the ability to deliver when it mattered most.
I feared Kobe when he was playing my favorite team or player and the game was close. To me, Kobe could inspire through basketball in the same way that a great actor or great musician could through their performances. You felt it as much as you saw or heard it.
Where I draw the most inspiration from is who Kobe was as a person. The “Mamba Mentality” extended far beyond the basketball court. He had been wildly successful in life after basketball. He had expanded entrepreneurially and even won an Oscar for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” He had taught me to find your passions and chase them with all the vigor and might you can muster.
Additionally, Kobe conducted himself with grace and class regarding younger generations in ways that other former players simply have not. It amazed me yesterday to see just the range of players that told stories of how Kobe had helped them in their career. I expected it from players like DeMar DeRozan but the way the likes of Trae Young and Devin Booker spoke on what he had meant to them was unbelievably poignant.
He was this generation’s Michael Jordan and can be counted as one of the handful of most influential players in league history. Part of me initially thought that it was perhaps the suddenness of how he had passed that had everyone so distraught; but as I viewed more and more the reactions from players and fans across the world, I realized that it was so much more than that.
Finally, Kobe….THANK YOU. Thank you for showing us the “Mamba Mentality.” Thank you for showing us that it was a mindset and more than a catchy phrase. Thank you for showing us that prep-to-pro was a viable path. Thank you for showing us that the dunk contest was still cool.
Thank you for showing us what two-man dominance looked like. Thank you for three-in-a-row. Thank you for showing us 81. Thank you for five championships. Thank you for 60 in your final game.
Thank you for showing us that loyalty can exist in professional sports. Thank you for showing humility and grace in retirement. Thank you for being an advocate for women’s sports. Thank you for being a great father to your daughters.
We love you Bean and were not ready for you to go, but unfortunately, we don’t get to pick our final substitution from the game of life. Rest in paradise Kobe, you have left basketball and the world in a better place than you found it.
You will always be remembered. As a legend.