I remember the Lakers Championship in 2009. More specifically, I remember being in awe of Kobe Bryant; he gave each game his all. I remember watching him every step of his career from when he first caught my attention in 2009 until his retirement in 2016.
In my home state of Georgia, football reigns as the most popular sport, but for me, basketball was always magical. I would watch the NBA games and be mesmerized by all the talent. Those players were my heroes, but Kobe Bryant was a head above them all. He was invincible. He was unstoppable— a force to be reckoned with.
There are not many once-in-a-generation talents that transcend every sphere of life quite as Kobe did. He gave new meanings to the numbers 8 and 24. He was the Black Mamba.
For 20 years, Kobe played for the Los Angeles Lakers and won five championships. He knew what it took to win. Every win mattered to him because he bled purple and gold. He wanted the Lakers to continue to be great so he held himself, his teammates and his organization to an incredibly high standard. He was the ultimate competitor and his rivals, including Allen Iverson and Reggie Miller, thought so too.
But Kobe was more than a competitor; he was a dedicated teammate and mentor. He took it upon himself to mentor other players and give them the tools to succeed. Even when he retired, he continued this mission. He mentored upcoming NBA stars such as Trae Young because he cared about the future generation of basketball for men, women, boys and girls. He wanted them all to succeed as he did.
And his greatness did not stop there. He turned his farewell letter to basketball into an Oscar and Emmy award-winning animation short called “Dear Basketball.” In my eyes, there was nothing he could not do.
He dominated in every facet of his life, but the being a husband and father was always his priority. Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, and his four children were his life. He loved being a “girl dad.” He loved coaching his daughters, specifically Gianna Bryant, a budding basketball player who was affectionately called Mambacita. You could see it in the way she played that she was going to be great. It was her confidence and her fadeaway that reminded you of Kobe. At 13, she gave you a peek of her talent and it got me excited about her future in the WNBA. I knew she would be special. From her Amateur Athletic Union basketball games, you could see it. It’s unfortunate that we will never get to see her undoubtedly bright future in basketball.
When I heard Kobe died, I was in shock. I was on Instagram when someone posted that he passed. I thought it was a hoax. I went to Google and hoped that it was. It seemed like time stood still. I didn’t know Kobe Bryant but it felt like I did. For 20 years, we all invited him into our homes and watched him on TV. I felt like he was my invincible friend. Even now, I’m still in shock. I find myself Googling his name hoping that it’s a lie and that he is alive, but then I realize he’s not and I feel sad again.
Kobe Bryant was larger-than-life and everything you hoped you could be. Although he is gone, his legacy will live on forever and he will not be forgotten. Rest in peace and Power Mamba, Mambacita and all other passengers who lost their lives. You will be missed.
Tope Abisoye is a graduate student getting her master’s in nutrition in health and human performance.