When I think of Kobe Bryant, I think of excellence, I think of class and I think of hatred.
Growing up as a young basketball player in New England, naturally, I worshipped the Boston Celtics, and their 2008 team holds a special place in my heart to this day.
In 2008, our new trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen took the boys in green from 24 wins to 66, best in the league. But it wasn’t until the Finals that I was genuinely worried about our chances of winning.
All of that was because of number 24 in gold standing across the center court line from us.
It could have been 1 on 5 and I would have been nervous.
That’s how good Kobe was.
I hated Kobe, even though we beat him in 2008. I knew no team should have even touched those Celtics, especially no Laker team, and I hated how “individualistic” his game appeared to my untrained eye.
Little did I realize that hatred, specifically Kobe’s hatred of losing, would play a role in my life to this day. When the Lakers and Celtics met again in the Finals in 2010, with most of the same teams intact, save some aging vets, I knew our chances were slim.
Kobe was untouchable that series. After game six, there wasn’t much else to say to a kid who loved the Celtics like I did except “he’s just that excellent, not much else to say about that.”
That’s when I started to realize and look into the methods and mindsets that Kobe had used his whole career. What did he do before practice? What is “Mamba Mentality” anyway? I researched, and I was glad I did. I found it to mean the model of excellence and passing on the idea of “constantly trying to be the best version of yourself.” Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and a number of other individuals, passed away the morning of Jan. 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash.
Nothing could have prepared the world for the impact that this would have, especially not after he was just in the public eye. And for what? Being a gentleman and congratulating Lebron James for passing him for third all-time in scoring in NBA history.
Class is something else Kobe will always be remembered for, as well as his constant willingness to mentor young basketball players and teach them everything he knows. Kobe began as an inspiration as a basketball player to all of us, but as we got older, and more and more of us phased out of playing the game, we realized how we could model being a good person after him too. If you’re reading this, I implore you to always try to be the best version of yourself, even if it’s a personal victory that no one can see.
Jay Williams, former NBA player and Kobe foe, said, in essence, life is too short and, to paraphrase, “drop that s**t. So, hug someone you love, try to be the best version of yourself every day, squash the pointless qualms and quarries, and, just like we all did growing up, toss a rolled-up piece of paper into the trash can and yell “Kobe!” again. You know it’s the Mamba way. Rest in Peace Kobe, we all miss you.”