By Derek Little February 24, 2020
A superhero, father, champion, husband, inspiration, motivation and savant. The list of describing words I think of at one time with Kobe is unlike any other list with any other person.
Kobe Bryant didn’t have just one singular move, but many. Just like his career, there wasn’t one defining moment but a flurry of them. He broke down barriers with a smirk and smile because he knew he was getting to the destination you thought he couldn’t get to. He made the game look so easy, yet his moves and his ability couldn’t be replicated.
I knew Kobe like most of us knew Kobe: an incredible basketball player who we watched grow up before our eyes. His story was real. It felt real to fans that never met him or knew him. With Kobe, I think it was always going to be a one-way relationship. But he made it feel like a two-way street. Virtually every step of his career was taken in the public eye and every step was calculated like a best-selling novel. When he suffered defeat, we saw what it meant. When he won a championship, we saw his happiness and felt it.
No other athlete meant as much to L.A. as Kobe did. Whether you loved or hated him on the court, you knowingly or unknowingly loved him. Opposing fans channeled their love for the game into frustration of not being able to stop him. His fanbase was one of the most ruthless and defensive of any athlete ever.
In 1996, when he was drafted, there were a lot of doubts. Many had never seen a player of his size and stature come into the professional game out of high school. That added to his story and led to the inspiration and motivation he gave us all.
20 years. 2 decades. One team. One player.
Over this time, he superseded all expectations. As he went through tough losses, turmoil and hard times, we lived through it as if we were with him. We watched Shaq and him win three together. We watched their break-up. We watched him design a new team and win more rings, even re-uniting with Shaq off-the-court towards the end of and after their careers.
“People don’t understand how much an athlete like Kobe..or Kareem or Shaq or Magic, how much they really hold this city together. This city has a lot of fault lines, not only in the ground but with the people. And what bring us together is the love for our teams….it give us something to unite behind…Kobe is some of the glue that holds this city together.” Ice Cube
Unlike any figure, his story was on display for everyone. Like a book, the chapters were all being completed. But, it wasn’t finished as they were still being written and we were still reading.
At his last game, the 60-point performance which inspired the league and Jeff and Cube to push the idea forward to create the BIG3, Kobe closed a chapter and possibly a book. After that game, many didn’t know what would take place or if he’d find peace at retirement.
However, it’s as if he dispersed that energy and mamba mentality towards all these other endeavors he was passionate about. From movie making to books, to focusing on being a father to his daughters. After his retirement, we saw him giving back and innovating.
He didn’t re-invent himself, he just did Kobe — overcoming the odds, proving others wrong, knowing he was going to be the best at whatever he set out to do. That ownership, pride, commitment and trust he had with himself is why he was so inspiring. It’s why he’s a real-life superhero for so many.
From all walks of life, you could resonate with Kobe. He transcended sports and his support spanned the globe. That’s what made him so special. That’s why we are all in pain over this loss.
As the pain we feel right now is still hard to describe or understand, my thoughts are with his wife Vanessa, his daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri; along with the friends and families of John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan.
Comprehending this loss is something I don’t think can be done. But, it leaves me to think that we must do whatever we can to embrace life and always remember how precious it truly is.