It was a foggy morning on 26th January 2020, when an earth shattering news was delivered to me. I woke up on that day with the news that my hero, and my childhood idol, Kobe Bean Bryant had died in a helicopter crash over the city of Calabasas, California. It’s been one year since he passed, but yet, it still haunts me. Not a single day passes with me not noticing the fact that he was no longer in this world. Everytime I touch a basketball or everytime I shoot a basketball, I remember the name, Kobe Bryant. Every basketball fan, at least once in their lives, shoots the paper into a bin while yelling out “Kobe!”, because scoring a bucket became synonymous with Kobe Bryant.
I still remember waking up at 5am as a kid, all the back in 2009 and watching the NBA finals when the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic and in the subsequent year when the Lakers faced their historic rivals, the Boston Celtics led by the Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But I never doubted the inevitable victory of the Los Angeles Lakers just because they had Kobe Bryant. Beating Boston in 2010, gave him his fifth and final ring, and arguably, his greatest ever achievement. His passion for his craft and his mentality when it came to high pressure situations in the game, made him one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.
He made scoring a basket look effortless. Whether it was attacking the paint for a dunk, or scooping the ball up for a layup, or taking a mid-range jumper with two people in his face or posting up against the defender and going for a picture perfect fadeaway, or taking shots which no other human on the planet would even attempt, much less score. That, to me, was Kobe Bryant. In a sport where players, even at the highest level, struggle to score 30 points, the man scored 40 points or more on 135 games that he played, 6 of those games were him scoring more than 60 points and in 26 of those games, he exceeded 50 points. In 2003, he scored 40 points or more in nine consecutive games, tying Michael Jordan and once had a four game fifty point streak. He once famously scored 81 points (Second highest point total ever in NBA history) against the Toronto Raptors and in his final swansong to the NBA, the man who wore the number 24, scored 60 against Utah Jazz on the night of 13th April 2016, capping off his Hall of Career with 33643 points, 7047 rebounds and 6306 assists in 1198 starts in 1346 games in a span of 20 years wearing the purple and gold uniform following which, he became the first player in NBA history to have two of his numbers retired in his honor by the same team. He ended his career with One NBA Most Valuable Player award, Five NBA championships, Two NBA finals MVPs, Eighteen time All Star Game appearances, Four All Star Game MVPs, 15 times selected into the All NBA team (11 being first team All NBA), 12 time All Defensive team selections (9 of them being first team all defense).
He was called “The Black Mamba” and he was the embodiment of “Mamba mentality” on the basketball floor. He was a cold blooded assassin on the floor, and would rip out the hearts of many players who watched helplessly as shot after shot fell right through the basket, and no matter how many people guarded him or the type of defense ran, none of it mattered when Kobe was on the floor. He came through huge in the big game moments, and night after night, put his team on his back and led them to victory.
In 2018, he became the first African American to win the “Academy Award for the best animated short film” for his film “Dear Basketball” and the first former athlete to be nominated for an academy award.
Putting aside all of his accomplishments, in life, Kobe taught me the following things,
Finding your passion and once found, going to an extreme level to pursue it and become the best to ever do it.
Becoming obsessed with doing something until you succeed in your pursuit of it.
Having a never give up attitude whenever you face a situation and winning that battle.
Respecting your craft, whatever that may be, and encouraging you to be better than who you were yesterday.
However, he taught me something even in his passing. It was to value and cherish people that are near and dear to you as they may be gone at any time as the time that we share on this planet is very limited. It was to live your life to the fullest, doing whatever you wanted to do.
As a parting thought, I'd like to end my first article with the following sentiment. On behalf of basketball fans everywhere, Thank you, Kobe. Thank you for touching our lives with your greatness. Thank you for giving your fans an ideal to live by. Thank you choosing basketball and being this great at it. You will never be forgotten, not in the lore of Basketball and certainly, never in the city of Angels. Thank you for everything that you did.