This blog post was written by Cyprus Fellow Sean Wright as a tribute to Kobe Bryant, who played in his final game this past week after a 20 year career with the L.A. Lakers.
Kobe Bryant started his career in 1996 and at that time I was 4 years old so I don’t remember his early years, but in the next years following, I started to witness something spectacular. I got to grow up watching Kobe play the beautiful game of basketball, and play it to the highest level imaginable.
My first thought of Kobe is him flying through the air going up for a monster dunk, wearing the number 8, and having that awesome afro. I immediately fell in love with his abilities on the court. The early 2000’s Lakers teams were such a treat to watch. But as much as I loved watching Kobe play, and even how he was my favorite player for a time, I always wanted them to lose in the Finals. For some reason I can’t explain, I always wanted the other team to win.
The 76ers, Pacers, Nets, you name it. I was always cheering for the other guys. Now that I think about it, I think that I was giving Kobe exactly what he wanted. He relished the fact that so many people didn’t want him to win. He loved the fact people were always against him. That just added more fuel to the fire that gave him that edge over every team and player he ever played against.
Even in the late 2000’s when he won another 2 championships, I still rooted for the other team. This time he was hitting fade away jumpers like they were lay-ups, wearing the number 24, and had shaved the afro off. He was still dunking on people, but not as regularly. His competitive nature hadn’t diminished at all, rather he worked even harder to maintain that level of excellence that players start to lose with older age. That is all because of his work ethic, only matched by a select group of players to have ever played this game.
There are countless stories of players coming in for practice at 7 AM, only to see Kobe drenched in sweat having already worked out for 2+ hours before a 2 hour practice. That’s what made him great.
He realized at an early age that he wanted to be great and figured out how to achieve that, and did it. A lot of people in sports and in life want to be great at their craft, but aren’t willing to put the extra work in to achieve that level of greatness, myself included. I consider myself a hard worker and I put in some extra work when I wanted to, but I was nowhere near the level of Kobe. I wish I had that work ethic, as I’m sure everyone does. He did it EVERY SINGLE DAY! If you look up dedication in the dictionary, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a picture of Kobe Bryant in the gym by himself shooting jumpers, probably around 5 in the morning.
The last thing about Kobe that made him a special player is the fact he played 20 years for the same team, the Los Angeles Lakers. You don’t see that often in this game anymore. Even Michael Jordan played for two different teams ( I’m glad MJ played for the Wizards, as they are my favorite team and who wouldn’t want the greatest player ever to be on your team?). Kobe stuck with a team that had so many highs, but also a lot of lows. He stayed through multiple coaching changes and players coming and going. But if you turned on a Lakers game, the only constant you could count on is Kobe Bryant for the last 20 years. To think that next year he won’t be on that court wearing the purple and gold it’s sad. We won’t get to see that Mamba scowl anymore after a game winning shot. We won’t see him flying through the air dunking on everyone and putting them on posters. The basketball community throughout the world is mourning the end of such a special career.
To this day whenever I shoot anything into a basket, wether it be a basketball into a hoop or a piece of garbage into a garbage can, I still catch myself sometimes yelling “Kobe!”, and I know I’m not the only one! I could go on and on about what Kobe has meant to basketball, myself, and the world, but I’ll leave it with this.
Thank you, Kobe. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being the player I wanted to emulate on the basketball court. Thank you for being the player who loved the hate. But most importantly, thank you for demonstrating what hard work is, and inspiring the next generation of basketball players. You will be truly missed.
P.S. – He scored 60 in his last game! 60! And the game winning shot!