There’s something intrinsically poignant about seeing your idols pass away. The heroes you’ve worshiped since childhood – the ones you viewed as true immortals. That’s what Kobe Bryant meant to me, and to so many other sports enthusiasts across the world.
Whether you loved him or loathed him, you straight-up had to respect the basketballing legacy that he forged. I still remember seeing a fresh-faced 18-year-old Kobe, straight out of high school, causing a ruckus during his debut season with the Lakers – mini-fro on his head, Three Stripes on his feet. I can’t specifically pinpoint the catalyst for my rabid fascination with him at the time, but I suspect it was the combination of on-court panache, and his off-court persona – he was truly a generational talent with a will-to-win perhaps rivalled only by Michael Jordan. The affinity grew to become a fundamental building block of my youth, and inevitably influenced my growth into adulthood. I know I’m not alone, either. He has instilled the Mamba mentality in countless others over the years.
I’ll never forget hours in front the TV trying to catch every one of Kobe’s broadcasted highlights, and convincing my parents to spend their savings on a pair of adidas KB8 IIs for my birthday. I’ll also continue to insist that they keep the giant, fraying poster of him hanging in my old bedroom – forever. I used to get teased for wearing his jersey seemingly to every outing, despite it being three sizes too big, lookin’ more like a dress – ‘you’ll grow into it’ my parents insisted (they weren’t wrong, I guess). Nostalgia-filled memories aside, Kobe’s never-say-die approach is something myself and so many others continue to look to in times of discouragement – it may very well be the crown jewel in his ever-lasting legacy, despite all the on-court accolades.
The aftermath of this tragedy has been a heartbreaking grapple between grief and a celebration of a one-of-a-kind human being. Kobe’s gone and, inherently, so is a part of all of us. However, if there’s anything he’d want us to do, it’s to keep grindin’ – that’s what the Mamba mentality is all about. So that’s what I’ll try to do, albeit with a heavy, heavy heart.
Thanks for everything, Kobe. The world will be forever grateful.