I still remember my earliest memories of watching you play for the Lakers. Seeing you and Shaq bring my hometown three straight titles in a style of dominance that not many teams could have ever attempted. Seeing the birth of the Black Mamba, the switch from no. 8 to no. 24. The different animal yet the same beast. Then watching titles four and five as a junior and senior in high school. In Los Angeles, you were the epitome of greatness. In the NBA, you put fear in the hearts of grown men for years. I grew my fro out and wrote “8” on the front and back of a yellow shirt, back in elementary school; just because I wanted so badly to be like you.
You inspired me in ways on the court and I modeled almost every facet of my game after yours. The turn-around jumper, watching film to breakdown every opponent, chewing on the collar of my jersey, my free-throw routine, shot fakes, pull up jumpers, even down to how I laced my sneakers. I still remember buying two pairs of the shoes you wore your rookie year, the EQT Elevations. One pair I took across the world with me whenever I traveled so that every international court I touched I could hit that jumper in my Kobe’s. For your last game in the league, I wore my purple no. 24 Lakers jersey and a pair of Kobe’s the entire day and proceeded to lose my mind when you dropped 60 on the Jazz to end your enormous career.
You said, “the beauty in being blessed with talent is rising above doubters to create a beautiful moment.” And that was a thought process I took throughout my collegiate and minor league careers. So now, to Kobe Bean Bryant: 5x Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 12x All-Defense, 2x Scoring Champion, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 4th All-Time leading scorer, only player with two jerseys retired for the same team, Lakers All-Time leader in points, wins and games. I miss you playing every time I turn basketball on. You were a generational talent that changed the game and seeing you play was literally poetry in motion.
Terry Pratchett once said that, “no one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” You were, and forever will be, a true GOAT, and the greatest to ever put on a Lakers jersey…thank you for what you did for the game I love, for giving me something to mold my game after, countless memories, and showing us all Mamba Mentality. Everything you meant to the game and to kids like myself will not be forgotten.
Rest in peace.