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Thank you, Kobe

On January 26, 2020, a tragic helicopter accident in Calabasas, California claimed the lives of nine people. According to the New York Times, the victims included NBA Legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant.

The tragedy has left the country shocked and doing something we never anticipated doing this early: memorializing Kobe. 

Kobe was a staple in the NBA throughout his 20-year career. He was a dominant force, winning five championships, an MVP award and appearing in a staggering 18 NBA All-Star games. By the end of his career, he had positioned himself as the third All Time leading scorer in NBA history. Kobe demanded excellence from himself and those around him. A notoriously hard worker, Kobe was always the first in the gym, and the last to leave. His extraordinary competitiveness and will to win led him to dominate every enterprise he took on. It’s the drive that led him to dominate the world of investing, and to win an Oscar after retiring from basketball. 

His accolades are hardly the reason for the immense sadness surrounding his death. The way Kobe made people feel is what we will never forget. 

Kobe was a basketball rockstar. He was cooler than cool. He was Kobe. He was the closest anyone in this millenium has become to a real-life superhero. He was brilliant, physically superior to everyone, handsome and wildly successful. He was so dominant and larger than life that it felt as though he was immortal because, well—he’s Kobe

I never knew Kobe, and neither did the vast majority of those mourning him. Kobe, however, was such a staple in American culture, so ubiquitous that he almost felt like an old friend. Whether it was love, hatred or somewhere in between, everyone had their personal relationship with Kobe. 

My first relationship with Kobe was one of hatred and respect. I was a Celtics fan, which meant rooting vehemently against Kobe in the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. A series in which Kobe would will the Lakers to victory, and in which I would have the unfortunate and terrifying experience of having to root against Kobe Bryant. Kobe played the entire 2010 NBA Finals with a broken finger on his right hand, his shooting hand. That was never going to stop him though. That’s who he was. The game I best remember, the game that will serve as my best representation of Kobe Bryant was Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Game 5 was played in TD Garden in Boston with the series tied 2-2 in a game the Lakers would ultimately lose. 

I will forever remember, as many will, the fear he struck in me whenever he touched the ball. This game was the perfect reflection of that. Kobe torched the Celtics defense with an array of fadeaways, tough layups and three-pointers. Watching his game and rooting against him was both infuriating and a joy. His game was aesthetically beautiful. His footwork, the way he moved, the quickness and power with which he moved. His game looked like it was impossible, as though it was crafted by a perfect algorithm, telling him how and in exactly what manner to move. He was like a 6’6” ballerina. During Game 5 came a moment that was quintessentially Kobe. Early in the third quarter, facing double teams along with his primary defender Ray Allen, Kobe scored 10 straight points on tough fadeaways and three-pointers. With every new basket, the feeling of helplessness began to wash over the Celtics crowd. As the Celtics called a timeout, Kobe walked to the bench, saying the same thing over and over. 

“He can’t guard me.” 

It wasn’t just Kobe who knew this though. Ray Allen knew it too. Both teams knew it. Everyone watching in the arena and at home knew it. Nobody could guard Kobe. 

Fast forward to Game 7 in Los Angeles. The Lakers have won the title. The eternal image of Kobe Bryant that I will always remember is him, ball in hand with his arms raised to his sides basking in the cheers of Lakers fans and raining confetti. I’ll never forget the awe and respect I had for his drive and sheer will to win. Kobe, through his own work ethic and determination, was going to ensure that he was going to be the best. 

Since his passing, many have continued to express their sadness over all that we did not get to see Kobe accomplish. It speaks to his staggering work ethic and drive that a five-time NBA champion, MVP and Oscar award winner can still be mourned for the loss of all he was yet to accomplish outside of basketball. It is a lesson we should all take with us. 

The light of the world will shine a little less brightly. He will be remembered forever. 

Thank you, Kobe. 

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