Growing up, brisk spring and summer afternoons were filled with backing down the defender, giving the shoulder shimmy with a turn-around jump shot, “5…4…3…2..KOBE…1… buzzzz…it’s good!”
“KOBE” dominated my obsession of driveway buzzer beaters. It did not matter if I was on the left elbow, right baseline or twenty-five feet away, I always imagined myself yelling “Kobe” (or actually yelling it) because that is what my generation grew up watching. A cold-blooded, no nonsense, screw-you-I’m-taking-this-shot scorer dazzled Sportscenter highlights and made a lot of young kids act out the shots just like Kobe.
Kobe Bryant was the first great scorer and player I could recognize, appreciate and admire. I was not around to witness the likes of Magic, Bird, MJ, Oscar or Dr. J in their primes or their careers – outside of Jordan’s stint with the Wizards but that wasn’t the same Michael. Kobe was the first guy many tried to emulate for a generation. Even if some of us couldn’t make the NBA.
I was always a bigger kid growing up which meant I was a Shaq to someone’s Kobe but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be Kobe or shoot like Kobe or commit to the game like Kobe. I worked on my shot constantly and still love going to the gym and running shooting drills to keep getting better. I love the game of basketball and it is partially due in part to Kobe. As Kobe’s time in the game moved along, I needed to stop to think about his greatness in terms of where he stood historically, but I didn’t.
By the time his final year came and went was when I started to really remember and realize all of the great things he accomplished in the game of basketball. I can tell you how many minutes and games he played in or that he sits 4th on the NBA all-time scoring list but that does not do Kobe Bryant’s impact on the game justice. He was more than the numbers and he led a generation of scorers to make the game what it is today. I can tell you that he scored 81 points in a game or that he went for 60 in this final NBA game but that does not define his greatness on and off the court.
His work ethic and drive made all of us want to be better and do more. There a reason why a self-given nickname “the black mamba” stuck. It wasn’t a selfish act, it was about a mentality, a mamba mentality. It is about hard work, doing things the right way. Kobe is the reason basketball players get to the gym early and leave late – to hone their craft. But he also is the reason millions of people around the world strive to be better in the workplace.
We saw how he worked toward his greatness and how he can develop it and we wondered ‘how can this apply this to our lives.’ Look no further than Kobe as a parent. I can imagine – from not knowing Kobe personally – that he brought the same tenacity and drive to be the best basketball player he could be to being the best father he could be. The highest honor is to be a great father to your children and he was that and much more.
As a parent and as a basketball player, there was no one like Kobe Bryant. To see, read, and hear all the tributes to a life and spirit of a man we saw grow up, has been tremendous and emotional. Thank you Kobe for all that you have meant to me and how I should strive to always be better and work on my craft, but also to be there as a parent – when I become a parent – and commit to that just as much as the rest of my world.
You will always be a hero.
Featured image courtesy of inc.com