A sports legend has left us. Kobe Bryant’s tragic death at the age of 41 has left a gaping hole in the hearts of basketball fans everywhere. It’s astonishing. I didn’t personally know Kobe, but my respect for him runs deep. Much like Kobe, I love the game of basketball. I started playing at an early age. I watched my older cousins and my older brother play in state championship games. We were a basketball family. I could often be found dunking Nerf basketballs in my room or shooting hoops in the driveway while snow and wind pelted me in the face.
I watched Kobe enter the league as a wiry 18-year-old. I was only 14, but I could see that he was different. His tenacity, his drive, his style…it was a joy to watch. I grew up watching him play. He represents an era of basketball that was very special to me.
Coming out of college I had a dream to work in the NBA. Never having the skills to be on the court, I still wanted to be close to the game. I lived my dream during a stretch in the mid 2000s when I worked for the NBA’s Houston Rockets. That’s where I watched Kobe play live – including during the 2006 All-Star game. It was incredible.
I watched TV coverage as he celebrated five NBA Championships, won multiple MVPs, scored 81 points in a single game, and I marveled during his last NBA game when he posted 60 points in a farewell win over the Utah Jazz. What an iconic way to finish an iconic career.
Like I said…I love the game of basketball. Kobe loved it and lived it. After retiring, he even won an Oscar Award for writing a short film titled “Dear Basketball”. What he wrote helped describe what many of us basketball junkies feel.
I played through the sweat and hurt Not because challenge called me But because YOU called me. I did everything for YOU Because that’s what you do When someone makes you feel as Alive as you’ve made me feel.
That’s Kobe talking to the game of basketball. But now, that’s the way fans feel about Kobe. Watching him play made us feel alive. When he retired, we lost a little bit of that feeling. And now that he’s gone those emotions are stirred back up.
Kobe was known for his burning desire to be better every day. Yes, he made mistakes. We all do. But he didn’t let his mistakes define him. Rather, he kept trying to be better. A better husband, a better player, a better father. In his days after retiring from the game, he spent a lot of time coaching his daughters. He could be seen courtside at NBA games, alongside his daughters, sharing his “Mamba Mentality” and love of the game with them.
He had become a fierce supporter of women’s basketball. Because of that, I had yet another reason to respect Kobe. I have daughters too. And I’m now sharing my love of the game with them. I’m filled with pride to see them learn and play the game.
Kobe Bryant has died, but his legacy forever lives on. It lives on through the kids who still sport his number 24 jersey. It lives on through the dads like me who pass on legendary stories and a fiery love of the game on to our own kids. It lives on through the countless number of players and people who he inspired and encouraged along the way.
It lives on. Rest in peace, Mamba.
Pausing to remember a great one, gone too soon. pic.twitter.com/YOAIkldiX4
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 26, 2020