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Farewell, Mamba

Kobe Bryant modernized the way basketball and sports were played. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Brian Markley
Associate Sports Editor

Kobe was many things.

A perfectionist. A gladiator. An artist. 

There are many words to describe Kobe Bryant. For me and many basketball fans my age, he was one of our earliest basketball idols. He was the fiercest competitor I have ever witnessed across any sport. He played with a fiery passion and was a cold-blooded killer on the court. He would never back down from a challenge, and no stage was too big for Kobe. 

I remember as a young boy practicing Kobe’s signature fadeaway in my driveway, hoping to one day use it in a game. I remember watching him and the Los Angeles Lakers clash against the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, where Kobe was named the most valuable player of the series.

I remember watching the game where he tore his Achilles tendon, and watching him make the free-throws right after and walk off the court under his own power. I remember watching him in his comeback game and watching him score 60 in the final NBA game of his career.   

The Mamba Mentality was a way of life. The Mamba Mentality is, in the words of Bryant himself, “means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself.” Kobe was obsessed with getting better, both as a basketball player and as a person, father and husband. 

This mentality is applied to many people’s everyday lives, even off the basketball court. It is something that I have instilled in my own life, whether it be grinding through a semester or racking up hours at work. 

The Mamba Mentality is relentless, unforgiving and requires dedication to yourself and your goals. It requires going that one extra step and pushing yourself in order to better yourself, especially when stared in the face of adversity. Kobe wanted the best out of his teammates, his coaches and his opponents, but most importantly, himself. He created a formula for victory in both basketball and life.  

Kobe was a perfectionist. He paid attention to every little detail of his game and the game of basketball. He spent numerous hours watching film and in the gym, analyzing every little way to get better and improve his game. He spent just as much time off the court, trying to become the best husband and father that he could possibly be for his wife and four daughters. 

Kobe was a gladiator. He left it all out on the court every night, whether he was 100% healthy or playing through injury. He fought through a ruptured Achilles tendon to make two free-throws before he had to be forced off of the court. He refused to be helped off the court; he wanted to walk off of it himself. He fought hard to recover from the injury, rehabbing relentlessly in order to make his come back to the basketball court. Kobe would die on the court before giving up. 

Kobe was an artist. Everything he did on the basketball court, whether it was a deep fadeaway jumper with a defender all over him or throwing down a dunk over a seven-footer, was poetic. Basketball is poetry in motion, and Kobe was basketball Shakespeare. He viewed the court as an empty canvas, and undisputedly left his mark all over it. 

Kobe was ready for the second half of his life, being a father and coaching his daughter’s basketball team. He was just as dedicated to becoming a role model for his daughters as he was to the game of basketball. 

Gianna Bryant, Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter also passed in the tragic helicopter crash with her father. She admired the game of Atlanta Hawks star point-guard Trae Young, along with Brooklyn Nets’ point-guard Kyrie Irving. There is a precious video of Kobe and Gianna sitting courtside at a Hawks game, and the two are in an intense conversation about what is happening in the game. 

Kobe was often asked about having a son so that his legacy could one day be continued in the NBA. In response, Kobe famously said that Gianna’s dream was to one day play in the WNBA and continue her father’s legacy. Kobe was so proud of his daughters, and they meant the world to him. 

There was a slate of games played the day of Kobe’s passing, but none of them mattered. The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs both took 24-second shot clock violations to start the game in honor of Kobe, who’s number 24 is retired. Other teams playing that day would follow, taking an eight-second back-court violation and then a 24-second shot clock violation, honoring both of Kobe’s retired jersey numbers, eight and 24. 

Tribute videos took over every arena in the NBA, as its players, coaches, staff members, families and fans continue to mourn the passing of Kobe, Gianna and every single person that lost their lives that day. LeBron James addressed Staples Center before the Lakers first home game since the passing of Kobe.

He delivered an impeccable, heartfelt speech about Kobe and what it was like to play with him and against him throughout his career. Kobe was a major contributor in helping push the game of basketball forward, and James pledged to keep pushing it. 

Kobe’s death impacted the entire world. It was a tragic reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and that any moment on this earth can be our last. Reach out to those you love and let them know you love them. Squash that meaningless beef you may have with someone. Enjoy every day on this earth. 

Farewell and thank you, Mamba.