Growing up in L.A., Kobe Bryant was everything.
He was excellence personified. Never had I seen a man so determined to reach every goal he set for himself, his pure love for the sport and for competition was unrivaled. Kobe’s talent alone could’ve carried him through his two decade long career but, it wasn’t enough for him. He was the hardest working player the league had ever seen. He analyzed every skill he had and did whatever he could to maximize it, being the first one in at every practice and being the last one out every single time. His dedication went even beyond the court, always sticking by Los Angeles in the good times and when the team was at their lowest. I can still remember the exhilaration of the 2010 NBA Finals as the clock was winding down on the 4th quarter of Game 7. Lamar Odom lobs the ball to an awaiting Kobe Bryant, who had played 40+ minutes with an injured index finger, and clock hits 0:00. 79-83, the Lakers had won their 16th NBA championship. It just so happened to also be my birthday, there was nothing I wanted more than to see this game and the joy that I got from watching Kobe win his 5th championship meant more than he would ever know.
Fast forward six years and it was his last game in the NBA, he went out the only way he knew how — giving it all he had, dropping 60 points. In the 3 and ½ years since being retired he kept that same mentality in the new endeavors he began. Going on to win an Oscar and starting his own production company, Granity Studios. Amongst all of this, it was obvious that his proudest moments were all the times spent with his family and coaching his daughters and seeing them grow in the sport with the same tenacity that he had. They were not forced into anything but realized the legacy he carried and knowing that they could carry that mantle forward. Watching Kobe and Gianna sit court side, dissecting the game and learning from every play was so impactful. He saw her passion and encouraged her to be exactly who she wanted to be. The potential she had was uncanny and it hurts to know we will never see the great things that she would accomplish.
Never would I have thought that I would wake up to a world without Kobe Bryant. My life, as I’m sure is the same for countless others, would have turned out so different without him. I’m beyond grateful for the endless memories I will have and the relationships and life-long friendships that have come out of being a Kobe fan. My heart goes to his family. Kobe, thank you for being such a crucial part of my childhood and for showing me that there is nothing between you and your goals that you cannot overcome. Mamba forever.