Thank you, Kobe.
Being a young child from the United Kingdom, it’s not a natural progression to lean towards basketball. Sport on those shores are dominated by football, rugby, cricket, tennis, and so on. But Kobe Bryant introduced me to basketball. Introduced me to the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest is history.
Watching his game really taught me, a child that never had any exposure to basketball before, the fundamentals of the sport. As my understanding of the game grew, my passion for the Lakers grew too. Again, thanks to Kobe Bryant.
Now as an adult, I thank Kobe for the life lessons he taught me. To be motivated in what I do. To follow my passion and dreams. To dig in deep when times get tough. To find the positives out of every situation. Good or bad. This all fell under his famous marker, the mamba mentality. I carry that forward in life, whether it be my home life or work life.
Those electrifying performances night-in-night-out were really something special. He really did bring his A-game every single night. I latched onto the sport relatively later than most. But watching back those special, historic performances that were ever-present throughout his career was truly remarkable.
The 62-points in 3 quarters against the Dallas Mavericks in 2005. The 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. The free-throws after tearing his Achilles in 2013. The 60-point performance in his final game. That’s just to name a few. Not to even mention the championships, and the numerous individual accolades collected through his illustrious career.
The MVP award. The Finals MVP awards. The All-Star appearances. The Scoring Champion awards. The list goes on, and on, and on, and on.
There aren’t enough words that can describe this man. A few though; teacher, dedication, competitor, winner, passion, drive, legend, icon, and most importantly, father.
My heart was heavy when hearing of the passing of Kobe Bryant. But it was even heavier when I received the news of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, being involved in the tragedy too. She was an incredibly talented young woman that was set to make her mark on the game, just like her father did. A student of the game, she was ever-present alongside Kobe on NBA sidelines and those of the WNBA as well.
The outpour of grief across the world since his passing on Sunday, really shows the impact Kobe Bryant had. Many found inspiration in him, and they had their own personal favourite memory. Their own favourite feature of Kobe as an individual.
Off the court, he was an accomplished businessman. An accomplished author. An accomplished poet. A short film based on his retirement letter “Dear Basketball”, released in 2017, even won an Oscar award, as well as an Academy Award. There wasn’t anything this man couldn’t do. A winner on-and-off the court. An inspiration on-and-off the court.
I could go on-and-on talking about Kobe Bryant, his achievements, and the effect he had on myself. All of my accomplishments in the sport of basketball stem from Bryant. Stem from those performances that were watched by a wide-eyed, fascinated young British boy.
I only had one opportunity to see Kobe play. And my god, I’m glad I took it. I was studying abroad in New York at the time. Me and a friend took the 4-hour Megabus trip up to Boston for the occasion. It was special seeing the Lakers and Celtics face-off, sure it was.
But it was an opportunity to finally see Kobe play. For the first time, and what ended up being the last time. We were sat up in the nose-bleed seats and it was a blow-out Boston win, but I didn’t care. I saw my basketball idol play. I had a grin on my face for days after, for weeks actually. I will never forget that. Ever.
His playing career immortalised him. Kobe’s “8” and “24” jerseys will hang from the Staples Center rafters forever. As a reminder to the generations that were witnesses of his greatness. But also to generations to come, who will learn about his superiority. His legacy will live on.
Kobe Bryant was bigger than basketball. He was an icon. A worldwide icon.
Rest in peace to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and also to John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli; Christina Mauser; Sarah and Payton Chester; and to Ara Zobayan. My condolences go out to all of their families and friends.