I was not too fond of Kobe Bryant, but I always respected him.
If you had told me I would write a Kobe Bryant tribute, I would have thought you were legally insane. I wouldn’t say I liked Kobe Bryant ever since his Lakers beat my sixers in the 2001 NBA finals. Besides that, my favorite player is Tracy Mcgrady so being a Kobe hater was second nature.
Ironically Kobe was my first favorite player before I really got into basketball. When I was a casual basketball fan, Kobe was my “favorite” player simply because I liked his shoes more than anyone else. However, during the 00-01 NBA basketball season, I went through a 5-inch growth spurt that inspired me to get into the game. Coincidentally that same year was the most successful season for the 76ers of my lifetime and also the year T-mac emerged as an all-star.
Due to these reasons, I was officially a Kobe hater by the time I started playing in high school. Everything negative said about Kobe Bryant, I believed it, he was a ball hog, he was cocky, he was a jerk. All media that made Kobe out to be a bad person, I was all for it, especially the famous “he copied his whole game for MJ” excuse. Yet, for as much as I hated Kobe, I always admired that he outworked his peers.
As a T-Mac fan, arguing who was the best 2 guard in the league of that time was an everyday occurrence.
Everything Mcgrady did was effortless and smooth; it was as if he was created to play the game of basketball. Kobe, on the other hand, while blessed in his own right with natural talents, had to work harder for his numbers. Also, because he had Phil Jackson as a coach and Shaq as a teammate, it was easy to dismiss his accomplishments.
However, as time went on, it became clear that it wasn’t luck that made Kobe more successful it was his sheer will. Once Shaq was shipped off to Miami, Kobe haters could no longer use the Big Diesel as an excuse for Kobe’s success. In fact, we all relished in Kobe’s failures as the Lakers struggled to reach the playoffs, let alone win a series for years. Kobe’s individual numbers were amazing during this time, but the lack of team success solidified all the negative comments about Kobe as a person.
Then, as Kobe could feel his basketball legacy being tainted, he completely adjusted his game and led a group of misfits to back to back titles. The Lakers are probably one of the most storied organizations in all sports with a rich championship history. Still, their championships in 2009 and 2010 stand out as shining moments for the Lakers and Kobe.
Shaq had gone on to win another title in Miami, something I am sure Kobe was well aware of. To not only tie things up with Shaq personally but to surpass him and still represent the gold and purple had to be vindication for Bryant. Still, Kobe’s popularity among the masses suffered as he never was seen as a likable guy to the public. Through sexual assault charges from 2004 and people didn’t bang with Kobe like that.
Thus the Black Mamba was created.
Amid all of the Backlash from his sexual assault case and the standing of his public perception, Kobe adopted an Alter Ego. Inspired by Quentin Terrationos, “Kill Bill,” the black mamba was who Kobe become on the court. That alter ego would give the kid from Lower Merion a different allure for years, but ironically would be the thing that connects him to the people he once lost.
1 year ago today, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna Bryant and 11 other people. The world changed that day and was unbeknownst to us was the beginning of even bigger changes. However, in the year since his death, the Mamba Mentally is apart of Kobe’s greatest legacy.
Just as he seemed to be letting his guard down and allowing people to access his genius and appreciation for life, he was taken away. Yet, his impact will continue for years through hoopers, believers, and everyone with a dream.
I was inspired to play basketball by Tracy McCrady’s game style because he made it look easy. Kobe Bryant is an inspiration for people worldwide for how we should live our lives every day.
Thank you, Kobe, for giving life all you had and using Basketball, fatherhood, directing as your way of showing us how to do the same.