You have been more than my favorite player since the time I was growing up in Southern California. I have to take you back to 2006, the year that you, Kobe Bryant, decided to destroy the league with everything in your playbook.
At school, the only thought I had was rushing home to watch you go to work on the court. Every night had seemed like you either broke another record or scored more than half a team. Seeing players nowadays hit your records fourteen years later really puts what you did into perspective.
When you scored 81 I remember where I was like it was yesterday. Chilling on the couch, my brother on the floor screaming “KOBE!!!” repeatedly, each bucket feeling like time standing still and the spotlight was only on No. 8. You always did leave great memories for me to remember.
Kobe Bryant left us all great memories to remember.
Growing up you showed me what hard work and determination meant and you personified what it meant to want to succeed with everything you’ve got. Many will forever argue “Was it the right way?” Me, I see the inner desire to get to the finish line.
I struggled after hearing what happened. A year has gone by. I don’t think things will ever be the same, but one thing you instilled in me was the show must go on. No matter what injury or other limiting issues going on at the time you would show up and put on a performance.
With that, I think the greatest legacy you left was the Mamba Mentality. To some, it’s really a corny phrase uttered by stans. But to the people who know that your mindset is what really makes someone great and want to achieve everything they can, Mamba Mentality is what drives us to this day to put maximum effort into whatever we do daily.
When I finally had the chance to see you live I took it in a heartbeat. It was snowing. My brother and I rode a two-hour train to Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Our cousins picked us up and took us to the arena, where we watched your Lakers take on the Hornets. Going into the game, I have to say, honestly, I did not expect much.
It was your fourth game back from rupturing your Achilles and I thought recovery would have taken some more time. Instead, I got to watch my idol throwback the time again, but right before my eyes. You could not convince me that you were not the MVP that night. As I stood there in an arena of 20,000+ people chanting “MVP” while you shoot your free throws, I couldn’t help but think of your impact then.
After your retirement, I selfishly thought you could play more, but I also understood the reasons to step away. What ultimately showed was that you were your happiest when with your family and being a father. That interview with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson showed that you were at peace with everything that happened in your career and that you had reached a different level.
Sadly you were taken away before we could continue to watch you shine.
Rest In Peace Black Mamba. GOAT. KB24. Jelly Bean. Kobe Bryant.
Legends never die.