The only way I know how to start this article, is by simply saying THANK YOU! As a fan throughout your entire career, I learned so much watching you play a sport through my television for 20 years. When I wasn’t watching, I was on a basketball court somewhere doing my best impression of you. From attempting fade-away jump shots anywhere on the court to counting down on every shot like it was the final seconds of a game. 3…2…1…“Kobe!”
I was three years old when I first watched you play. I honestly don’t remember much outside of the number eight on your jersey to be honest. You didn’t play much at the time and let’s keep in mind how a three year old’s memory usually works. The other part that I remember about the first time watching you though, was that I knew it was going to be the start of watching you play for as many years as possible. Fast forward to my seventh grade year, I tried out for my basketball team and I failed to make it. Despite not really being much of a basketball player at that time, I felt like I needed to prove something of myself and everyone around me. This was the beginning of me finding my passion with basketball. From there I started to actually play pick up games more and more until I was playing all day and night every day until my legs begged me to stop. I would go to the park and practice the most difficult shots I could think of because I would go home after playing myself, and watch you dominate with the same type of difficult shots on the T.V. screen in my living room. Every night that the Lakers played, I knew it was going to be a spectacle because I knew you were going to be in the lineup. As long as you could run, you always played no matter the ailment. I tried out again my eighth grade year and not only made the team, but I was a starter. I drastically improved in that one year of playing because you taught me that as long as I was dedicated to put the work in every day, I would succeed. I went on to play some basketball in High School but I stayed in my own way of developing my game to the level I needed it to be at in order to continue playing past High School. Although, through my trials and tribulations with basketball, I developed a passion for the sport that was rooted deeper than just with playing. I always knew that I wanted to stay around basketball. Just like for you, basketball was my muse. It took me some time to figure out how I would stay around the game but eventually I decided to push forward with pursing my love for basketball through the media side–with a tougher work ethic.
These days, I work harder than I ever have because I don’t only dream to have a successful life, but I dream to have the work ethic you always had. I watched documentaries and interviews of you over and over again to pick your brain as much as these interviewers did. I watched replays of games and highlights to figure out your moves and anticipate what you would do while you played. The way I obsessed over figuring out how you became so obsessed with basketball, led me to feel like I knew you personally. You became my biggest idol. Everything I do has a correlation to you in some way. I got the Black Mamba snake wrapped around your logo covering my forearm so I can look at it any time I feel like I need a reminder as to why I am working so hard to succeed at everything. The Hoopfanatic Podcast was purposely debuted on your 40th birthday. To a crazy fan like me, I felt like that was the perfect way for me to celebrate your birthday. Anything and everything I did had you in mind. For being just a fan versus someone that actually did know you personally, and for me to read what I am typing, I feel crazy.
“There is power in understanding the journey of others to help create your own.” -You
That particular quote of yours hits deep for me. I had a dream that developed because of the passion and desire that you carried with you every time you played. That passion and desire was so fierce to me that it inspired me to want that same exact feeling with whatever it is that I’m doing in my life. It was, the Mamba Mentality. As cliche as this is to say, without the lessons I learned through you and through developing a type of mentality that you are the founder of, I’m not sure of the direction in which my life would be heading.
Normally, talking about you is something that I can do for hours on end and I know I have more to say but–currently–I don’t have much else to say because of the shock I am in. This has been tough enough to write with how much my hands are shaking. This is a brief letter letter to you and how you inspired me to want to become great. To never settle. To never kneel in the face of adversity. I’ll save the rest of what I have to say for when I meet you up there. Right now, not only I but the world, is facing adversity mourning what we all think is the loss of you. Although, despite how devastated we are, we are preparing ourselves to have your spirit and Gianna’s spirit live on within us forever. As cliche as I have been through this entire piece of writing, I have to end it on the most cliche bang ever.
“Heroes come and go, but LEGENDS are forever.” –You
The Mamba Mentality will live on until the end of time inspiring many people to chase perfection within their craft. To have fun and love every second of the journey while sharing that love, with our loved ones. We love you Kobe and we love your baby girl Gianna as well. The Bryants are forever in my thoughts and prayers.