I woke up to the news that morning hoping it’d just be another meme. Y’know, those done in bad taste where some black and white pic of a celebrity is captioned “X woke up this morning peacefully”? But it wasn’t, and it was an unfortunate certainty that Los Angeles Lakers legend and father Kobe Bryant, as well his daughter, Gianna, had passed away on Jan. 27 in a helicopter accident.
This was terrible news for friends, family, and fans alike. The NBA cancelled its games to allow mourning for those who lost a brother, rival, idol, and mentor. Just like his farewell tour, we’re in a similar position. People from different walks of life, who’ve all come to love or hate him, have amassed nothing but respect for his greatness that’s surpassed the realm of basketball.
He was a leader on and off the court, sharing his experience and setting a solid example for his peers. His analytical mind for the game translated to his brilliant commentary in his series Detail where he’d break down plays for our understanding. Kobe even took big steps in the finance game with his venture capitalist firm Stibel Bryant. The amount of love and dedication to everything he set out to accomplish just bled through his work.
There were always better lights-out shooters than him, sure, but it was his audacity to shoot in the face of two or three defenders night in and out that stuck with us every single time.
Chuck it up to the man with the Black Mamba mentality who stepped on the court and oozed sheer confidence and determination to destroy whomever was unfortunate enough to guard him. He had a dozen moves he could go to from any position, and a dozen more if that first one didn’t already get him a bucket. There’s no wonder he became synonymous with basketball excellence for a whole generation. It seemed as if he never missed. Moreover, he lived and died by the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ve only ever seen him in purple and gold.
You can’t even breathe his name without bringing up the Greatest of All Time (or G.O.A.T.) discussion. Easily, he’s up there against the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James. Surely, our claims are equally as acceptable as the next, but really, the fact that we can argue about this is a grace. We’re in the midst of greatness and that in itself is beautiful.
But I wasn’t always a basketball fan, and surely a huge number of us mourning for Kobe aren’t quite big NBA fans either. I came to know of him along my grade school hallways with boys bodying each other up faking 1-on-1 basketball between classes. They’d lean on each other, then jump back into a fadeaway shot, yelling “Kobe!” I’d also hear the same yell when friends would toss anything into the trash, or in shooter games where I’d catch myself blindly throwing explosives, hoping it’d hit someone.
There must be something to this association we all made. There were always better lights-out shooters than him, sure, but it was his audacity to shoot in the face of two or three defenders night in and out that stuck with us every single time.
No matter how polarizing he was, he clearly earned our respect with every dribble, shot, and confident grin he’d send our way. The legend passed away way too soon, but he lives on in us all.
More than the mechanical efficiency of each shot he took, I guess it’s Kobe’s spirit we’d try to evoke with the shouting of his name. It’s always different things. For the trash can, it’s accuracy and dexterity; for FPS games, it’s luck and precision. Twitter discourse taught me the development of “YEET!” as a need for raw strength and distance of hurling objects, but “Kobe!” always called upon a touch of grace and swagger. Even when we clearly had no means of hitting a trash can across the room with our balled up paper, the mere act of summoning Kobe gave us a semblance of hope that maybe we’d hit the mark.
Okay, maybe hitting sick ‘nade kills and trash cans aren’t as deep. “Kobe!” stood for bigger things like perseverance and commitment. He didn’t know how to quit; even towards the tail end of his career where his championship chasing was replaced with leading a young core to future greatness, he was still chucking up shots like he never aged. His farewell game had him drop a killer 60 points against the Utah Jazz.
This killer instinct was always a source of inspiration for us all to pursue whatever our work or craft is with the same bloodthirst for excellence. Getting that A? Securing that project? Hitting that new quota? Kobe’s always been with us, barking, hounding us on to reach just a bit further, faster, higher, stronger. Chucking balls into hoops isn’t the most valuable act to the world, but it is a platform for some of the most inspirational barings of heart and soul, and Kobe never shied away from doing just that.
Kobe was a dominant force in the world of basketball, etching his name in the rafters of every stadium with his consistent excellence at every stage of his illustrious career. No matter how polarizing he was, he clearly earned our respect with every dribble, shot, and confident grin he’d send our way. The legend passed away way too soon, but he lives on in us all. From his basketball prowess, decisive leadership, and moving willpower, his influence has shaped every single thing he touched. The least we can do is continue his legacy; now, when we toss that piece of trash into the can, perhaps, now we say “For Kobe!”
Rest in Power.