The Black Mamba, Mr. 81, The Dagger, The Lord of the Rings, or more simply, Kobe Bryant, has passed. The man was quite unconventional; while he shone on the court he didn’t quite fit what many imagine as the basketball all-star. He spoke three different languages, wrote poetry, and even learned to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by ear. This isn’t the only way he was different from the rest; while many basketball players have an intense work ethic, Kobe was on another level. He would start his own practice at 5am in high school (in the NBA, this changed to 4am), he would continue to practice alone for two hours in the dark after everyone else left, and even played a game left-handed after his right shoulder had been injured. All this hard work showed as his shooting and mobility was unlike anything ever seen before.
Very few say Kobe changed the game. Why? Because no one will ever be able to do what Kobe did. He won five championships: three in a row and two more than Lebron James, who passed Kobe on the all-time scoring list the day before he passed. Kobe was the first guard to be taken in the draft right out of high school, and would be traded that same day to the Lakers, a team he would stay with in his 20-year career. Perhaps most spectacularly, he dropped 81 points in a single game, only beaten by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Kobe was a man who could never be replicated.
No player has had a city love them like LA loves Kobe. As a fan of the Cavs, I have seen greats come and go and break the city’s heart. I had the chance to go see Kobe in the Staples Centre in his final season, and even though he only played a half and had a subpar night, as he walked off the court the entire stadium in one loud roar screamed, “Kobe MVP… Kobe MVP”. It was inspiring to see the love the city had for the man.
Off the court he gave back, leading the After School All-Stars (a programme trying to get kids in low-income communities an extra meal as well as keeping them off the streets). It is no wonder they not only retired his jersey number, but they retired both of his numbers – the only player in the NBA to have this honour. His love of the city existed long after the clock ran out in his final game.
Kobe’s legacy to the world will never be forgotten. While off the court he might have had problems, which are well-documented, his commitment to his family is also well-known. His death was the result of him trying to get to his daughter’s game. His daughter Gianna, 13, tragically died with him. He left behind three other daughters, the youngest only born last June. The poet from Lower Merion, the king of the Staples Centre, the father of four, has left. Rest in peace Kobe Bean Bryant. I don’t know how better to finish this than in the words of the man himself:
“And we both know, no matter what I do next, I’ll always be that kid, with the rolled-up socks, garbage can in the corner, .05 seconds on the clock, ball in my hands, five… four… three… two… one” […] “Mamba out”.