I adored you, I defended you every chance I had. I idolized you, along with Allen Iverson, probably too much.
I remember 13 year old me buried in front of the TV on draft night in the middle of the summer of 96 in anticipation to see where you’d end up. My disappointment that the Cavs passed up on you was noticeable. My mom probably had to beat the attitude out of me for a week following that colossal oversight by my favorite team. As a kid my family wasn’t able to purchase expensive shoes for me. When your first pair of shoes came out my dad worked overtime just to afford them, and visited every shoe store he could until he found a pair for me. That was the one and only pair of shoes I had as a kid that weren’t $10 Kmart Jordache specials.
I never seen you play in person, I couldn’t afford it. I’ve obviously never met you. The closest I was to you is being at the 2018 Women’s Final 4, where anyone who was with me can attest that I was going crazy and plotting how I could meet you. Yet, you’ve made such an impact on me.
As I got older and how we view things change, it wasn’t your dunks or your flair that captivated me. It was your unbelievably intense desire to be the best there ever was. It was your incredible attention to detail. It was your complete disregard to being liked or disliked. It was your consistent illustration that fundamentals were the key.
As you transitioned from a player to retirement, you took those same ideals and lived your life by them. You showed us that all of us can live our lives with that type of purpose, and it’s not just reserved for professional athletes. I have used you as an illustration and example to as many of my own players as I could. You are the golden standard for basketball success.
The father that you showed yourself as was an inspiration too many. Even though I’m not a father I have a niece that I treat like my daughter. I have kids that play for me that I love just as much and pray that I can reach in a capacity that is just as dynamic.
As a supporter of women’s basketball, I was so happy to see what you were willing to put into the game. I was very enthusiastic about you and Gigi putting the game on your backs. With your audience, your passion, and your determination, I knew the game was in good hands.
I knew you weren’t invincible, no one is. However I did expect to see you for many years to come. I envisioned a grey bearded Kobe talking to the leagues superstars every All-Star game like Bill Russell. What all people can agree on is that you went too early. The world will be a tougher place without you. The NBA will absolutely have a huge missing piece.
Adding to the sting is losing Gianna as well. She was a spark of excitement and optimism for all of us. She was going to give all of us our Kobe fix. She was going to have so many fans ready to cheer her on and follow her career. She was ready to carry the legacy, while blazing her own trail.
It is so sad that a man that gave his entire life to the game and us fans, no longer has the opportunity to live his life. For many years he has put in many more hours that your average player. He gave up family time, leisure time, and other opportunities to advance his brand, to be the best player on the planet. All this makes it harder to swallow that now that he had the chance to enjoy his life, it gets taken away from him.
Mamba Mentality isn’t about trophies, points, MVP’s, and fame. It’s putting in more time than reasonably thought. It’s about putting much more effort into the small details than being flashy. It’s about putting winning as the top priority. It’s about giving more effort and energy than you thought possible. It’s about pushing through any pain or injury that you can. It’s about being loyal and working through tough times. It’s about making no excuses, and not allowing anyone to make any for you.
As I refuse to say goodbye, I vow to live my life with the utmost Mamba Mentality. That is the best way I can honor my hero. Not only will I not say goodbye, I will never allow your legacy to be forgotten. I will share as much about you, your game, and the Mamba Mentality as possible. I will gladly share who Kobe Bryant was with anyone who ever asks. The 8th & 24th of every month I will have Kobe’s on my feet. I will do way more than my part to keep you living in the hearts and minds of everyone.
Thank you Kobe.