The Unexpected way Kobe Bryant's death affected my life
Why Kobe’s death affected me more than I ever thought it would
As I write my first draft for this post, Tuesday, January 28th, 2020, I attempted to buy Kobe’s autobiography: the Mamba Mentality. I was not able to purchase the book, however, for it was completely sold out. On Amazon. Since Kobe passed away, I’ve been surprised at how much of an impact he had on the world. I had ignorantly thought of Kobe as merely a great basketball player, and as a huge basketball fan, I certainly recognized him as one of the greatest.
I must admit, though, despite my respect for him, my fan relationship with Kobe had always been one of love and hate. Primarily because, growing up, I was not a Lakers fan. And if you weren’t a Lakers fan from 1996 to 2016, Kobe was probably beating the living shit out of your team. Except for the Spurs dynasty, and spurts by the Pistons, Celtics, and various LeBron teams, nobody dominated the league like #8/#24. He defeated my Rockets a couple of times in the playoffs, and I resented him for it, but also admired him. Kobe was an offensive juggernaut, and no one on planet earth could stop the Mamba Mentality.
I remember reading a biography on him. I got from the library when I was a kid. I don’t remember much from the book, except for one scene: Where a young Kobe was practicing basketball with his dad when he was growing up (something I was doing with my pops at the time as well), and talking about how his former NBA father would brutally throw elbows and shoulders at Kobe, regularly procuring nose bleeds and busted lips. At least that’s how I remember reading it when I was 9, knowing that the Mamba had been a badass from the beginning. I learned that he wasn’t just another famous player who had a big ego and scored a lot of points—Kobe was so much more than that; he was a whole different animal. The kind of grit, toughness, and pure competitor we may never see from a shooting guard for a long time.
That was the Kobe I grew up with. Well... at least part of him. As a kid, I knew Kobe cheated on his wife, and at the time, I lost a lot of respect for him. Now, as a slightly wiser adult, I see him as an imperfect man whom the world expects to be perfect. Because he’s famous, I guess (shrugs shoulders)? In the end, though, the Kobe I grew up with was so much more than I could’ve ever thought, much more than a great basketball.
The day Kobe Bryant passed away with his daughter Gigi, I realized he was 100 million times greater than the Kobe I had known growing up. I witnessed the world go into a state of absolute shock. I received texts from friends who I didn’t think even knew who Kobe was. I saw social media come together and remember the legend—#24. Instagram models, artists, poets, right-wing, left-wing, everyone came together on that day. I had never thought of Kobe Bryant has someone who invested in other’s lives, certainly not someone who could command so many souls to mourn his sudden passing.
Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention and missed Kobe’s true greatness: His heart. After watching dozens of current and former players weep on tv and social media, I understood how huge his impact had been. I discovered how many young players he had worked with, and how profound that was. That a legend like him would spend so much of his valuable time with them struck me. For a guy who rarely passed the ball, he was an unselfish human being. That, however, is who Kobe was, and I’d never cared to pay attention to him in that regard. Seeing the tears from so many people showed me what I had been missing for so long: The real Kobe. The Kobe I will now remember for the rest of my life.
His death seems a truly monumental tragedy when you consider Kobe’s future with basketball, creative pursuits, and, most of all, his daughters. Mamba’s life was just getting started despite having one of the greatest basketball careers in the history of the game. I consider this the ultimate testament to Kobe’s greatness. Even in retirement, Kobe was overachieving. What a legend. Humans like the late great Mamba are rare. That’s why we call them legends. I, however, would like to go beyond the term legend. I prefer to call Kobe what he deserves to be called, a great man. I don’t use that term lightly. There are lots of legends out there, trudging throughout history with guns and swords in their hands. But very few who held a basketball, a pen, an Oscar, and the hands of his loving family in one life, all at once.
All at once. All at once, we find ourselves without Kobe Bryant, a man who I never thought would leave this world so soon. The same man who beat my teams, and the same man whom I now look to inspiration for amongst the few great men of all time.