Basketball always mirrors poetry. It felt perfect that LeBron James would surpass an idol, a friend, and a rival in career scoring in his hometown, the city where they first met and an unbreakable bond was formed.
But it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t perfect because just hours later, that idol – the same idol for millions of us – was taken away tragically.
Kobe Bryant was more than a Laker, more than a basketball player. But he was the bridge connecting so many of us to the sport we fell in love with. For me, he was a way of connecting and bonding with my dad. Later on, he was the one who brought me a new love and passion that protected me through my darkest days.
Kobe’s story is one of perseverance, determination and a never-ending belief that all things are possible. He rejected every criticism while making it a mission to delete any flaws. He made everyone believe that they could follow in his footsteps if they treated the 24 on his back as the number of hours they had in a day to seek perfection.
Kobe mesmerized us for 20 years. He airballed playoff shots and hit game-winners. He took contested jumpers over three defenders and threw the flashiest dimes. He snatched your soul on defense and embarrassed you on offense.
His duality, a divisive and polarizing figure was iconic in and of itself. Kobe was imperfect. He made you wrestle with morality, a feeling that I, an unabashed fan of his, struggled with and will continue to struggle with even after he’s gone.
When Kobe left basketball to the tune of his own poetry, he left behind one final Hollywood script of an ending. One final moment to captivate an entire world of fans and haters, alike, seeing the absolute limits that his body and his mind could take him.
Kobe’s Mamba Mentality became a philosophy. For athletes, artists, scholars and everything in between, it became a call for singular focus and passion, the motivation and catalyst behind our most incredible accomplishments. It was what dug so many of us out of the deepest holes, the attitude that we were going to be tough motherfuckers, just like Kob’.
It’s hard to put any of this into words between the tears. We’re all mourning a superhero, whether we are athletes following in his steps or fans that revered every step of his career. We’re mourning a beautiful 13-year-old girl who had so much more to live for in her pursuit to change the world just like her dad. We’re mourning the father who loved his family more than even his maniacal love of basketball.
Kobe taught us it was okay to fail, so long as you picked yourself up, dusted it off, and went straight back to work. He taught us it was okay to have a passion that ran so deep that you invested all your time, all your determination, your blood, sweat and tears into it. He taught us to fight through adversity, prove doubters wrong and better yourself as a person and a professional one step at a time.
Kobe was an iconic figure in my life. He was also a controversial and confusing one. But without him, I would not have my love of basketball, my love of writing, and my innate love of the process, the desire to become great at anything. I carry that passion, that love with me everywhere and I hope I can create a legacy like his one day.
Rest in peace, Kobe and Gigi. Thanks for everything you gave me. Thanks for everything you gave us.