My first memories of Kobe Bryant happened to be with my father. Kobe was his favorite player. I remember regular Saturdays and weekday evenings where I would sit with him during his free time and watch him play his NBA game on his PlayStation. These were possibly the most momentous times of my early life. I couldn't tell you the exact game it was, but I do remember that he would always use Kobe. I would fall in love with the sounds of the announcers and the premature onomatopoeia that comes with a 90's basketball game. I would study the nuances and try myself when he wasn't watching. Learning, experiencing the game as I bonded with my Father.
As a young child, learning the game came from this interaction with my father. These gave me my first thoughts of this game I grew to love today. It's Ironic to me that my first impressions of Kobe and my last impressions of Kobe would be through fatherhood. Me bonding with my father as he played his NBA games. And for Kobe, his bonding with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna as he began to develop and evolve her love for the game of basketball. It's a wonderful feel-good story in my eyes that sums up what Kobe Bryant truly meant as a person. A genuine, heartfelt man with a passion unmatched. A true father that was able to pass on his passion to his children.
Though my memory was shot, I do recall seeing the elation on my father's face when Kobe won his first title. You remember when Kobe took over that game when Shaq fouled out? How poised yet electrifying he was in those clutch moments taking over the game? I don't remember much of it. However, now looking back on that tape you could see a young hungry boy become a man in that 2000 Indiana series. He came far from the boy who air-balled those jump shots in that 1997 Utah series.
This is the Kobe Bryant I remember. The Fervor to win. The confidence, even when he wasn't ready for the moment, he was willing to find out. I remember Kobe being willing to fall forward in order to achieve. I reminisce on a man who's sheer will to win pushed him to learn as much as possible to win games and championships. I remember watching a fearless competitor live in the limelight since a boy, and show me how to become a man by pure example.
I must admit, I did not grow up a Kobe Bryant fan. I was more on the Michael Jordan wave, much like the majority of my peers that were born in the '90s. When I was old enough to comprehend basketball I became a Dwyane Wade fan. Kobe was never my favorite player, but I always knew who he was.
If you knew basketball you knew Kobe Bryant. Because he was always in the spotlight. For better or for worse, Kobe was always in the public eye. This had a lot to do with the fact that he played for one of the more storied franchises in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers. So he always had my attention.
Another reason why was because Kobe has a relatable story. The story of redemption, hard work, and sheer blue-collar will. Kobe wasn't this force of nature. He wasn't the highest leaper of the greatest shooter. Kobe was a workhorse and a believer in himself. This is what made Kobe so amazing.
This is the same man that at around 18–19 told Michael Jordan " I'll bust your ass". We're talking about Michael Jordan at the peak of his powers. This is the "greatest ever", the man that placed fear in so many player's hearts by dominating them night after night. We're talking about one of the greatest icons the world has seen in the modern era. And Kobe looked him in his face and declared he'd destroy him without hesitation.
This was Kobe Bryant, a man who never stopped believing in himself. This is the same young man who air-balled jump shots in a playoff game then came back and obliterate them in the last game of the season a year later.
If I were to remember Kobe Bryant I remember a story of peaks and valleys. I'd remember the journey of how a young ambitious kid became a man with all the faults in-between. From his first season failures to becoming the youngest player to start in an all-star game. From the first three-peat with Shaq to the fallout that split the two up to the rape allegations. From the transformation of 8 to 24. I remember the awakening of the Black mamba, the assassin, the strike without hesitation.
Recalling Kobe makes me remember the work ethic. The craving to be better every single day. Every single moment. This is what I'd commemorate Kobe Bryant for. He showed me every day of his life that he desired to be the best he possibly could be and he didn't shortchange the process. Not once did he cheat us. That's what's so memorable about him. And that's why for so many it's difficult to let go.
On top of that, his passing along with the 8 others is so abrupt and unexplained. This tragedy doesn't make sense and that possibly leaves the most enormous hole in the hearts of many. It's just something we can't comprehend, And to me, that's what also hurts so deeply. I can only imagine what Vanessa Bryant and all the others who are without their family members are going through.
Me being a fan of the game, a Virgo, and a person who can resonate with Kobe's obsession, I was drawn to him. I remember listening to a telecast of someone saying Kobe wanted to shut Allen Iverson down one day. Bryant was so obsessed with stopping AI and watching videos on how to do so that he came across great white sharks hunting and applied that to his defensive schemes. That pure raw obsession, I can relate to this. Just wanting something so bad, and he applied this to every aspect of his life. On and off the court.
This man was a blessing we lost too soon. He was just brilliant in all facets of life.
Now, I must admit, I cannot remember Kobe without his faults. for this, I will address his sexual assault case in this post. for me personally, I hold him accountable for his actions. When I think of this I think of a plethora of things. One, The millions of women who are sexually assaulted daily and paid off or simply silenced comes to mind. I understand where this perspective comes from and why so many would detest Bryant for it. From my own perspective, I see the countless Black men that are falsely accused of raping white women and are slaughtered because of it. These are two of the perspectives that arise when thinking about this case.
It staggers me to contemplate this conversation. Why? Because it is so polarizing. I understand both viewpoints. For me, I view it as a mistake that Bryant committed and I gave him the room to grow from it and become better. I gave Kobe the ability to redeem himself. And In my perspective, he did. He did it on and off the court. From his public apology to the woman in question, to his play on the court. To the milestones, he reached for women's basketball and empowering women across the globe. Kobe redeemed himself, as he always did in his life. This is not an excuse, Kobe had a fall from grace, but he did climb from that hole and rise like a rose in the concrete, turning a lesson into a blessing.
However, to those of you who can't move past a person's faults, and won't allow them to move forward and redeem themselves. I ask you to look into the mirror and ask yourselves how many times have you fallen and asked for redemption. Then look at the entirety of the man that is Kobe Bryant. Don't judge him for his past mistakes, but for what he has done in response to those mistakes. It is more important to define a man by his character when he is faced with adversity. It is important to judge someone when their back is against the wall then how they got there. And that's what Kobe was.
A man who through every fire accepted the burns and found a way to reign. A man that through every challenge found a way to rise. He is the very definition of a phoenix. From his two air balls in his rookie season to not starting at the beginning of his career. From losing Shaq, to the sexual assault case, to losing in the finals and countless other situations where lesser people have fallen. Kobe found a way to rise above it all.
This is the Kobe Bryant I reminisce upon, The man that no matter what the challenge faced ahead of him, he always found a way to ascend. This is why he resonated with so many people across the globe. His death was the first time in my life that I witnessed so many black men cry publicly. And It shook me to my core. It was beautiful yet mortifying. Being a black man I grew up being told not to cry, not even for death. Then here go the Shaqs, the Dwyane Wades, the Tracey Mcgrady's the Stephen A. Smiths, the Michael Wilbon's, all balling because of this man and 8 others passing. Even some of my closest friends had been devastated and we spent time consoling each other. It broke my heart that this was the tragedy that allowed so many black men to cry. But it also felt good to see them publicly become vulnerable and be accepted as the regular human emotion it is
When I look back on the man that was Kobe Bryant as I hold back my tears, my last impression of him was his transition into his new careers. The full-time dad and storyteller. These two elements of his life deliver so many powerful messages of fatherhood, especially in the black community. They also reveal to people that you can accomplish anything. Bryant in his last few years seemed more proud of his academy awards than his 5 rings. He was more proud of his daughters especially Gianna. That right there shows the power of passion and desire and the willingness to allow yourself to make new accomplishments. That is in its essence the soul of the mamba mentality. Kobe, like Nipsey Hussle, was a marathon runner and he cherished each achievement at the moment he received them. His last few were his greatest awards. That is what the solace in all of this madness gives me personally. The ability to move on and make a new challenge and be accomplished in many things.
As I conclude this long letter of memoir, long-winded and in relief, I take my final chance to let go of a man that inspired me on and off the court. I also reminisce about how Kobe was so polarizing. You either loved him or you hated him, but you had to respect his will. For a long time, there were people that hated the Mamba simply because he destroyed his enemies. This also was a reason as to why I appreciate this man. And it is why I can let go without feeling pain anymore. I get to say thank you for the inspiration, dedication, and love for the game.
As I hold back the tears from flying onto my keyboard one last time I take this moment to remember Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan. May you never be forgotten. Thank you, Kobe, Mamba Out.