A reflection to perhaps the NBA’s most determined perfectionist Kobe Bryant, who through countless hours of craft fine-tuning, evolved to one of the games all-time greats.
Pure tragedy struck the sports realm all over the world, digesting the news that former Los Angeles Laker/ NBA icon Kobe Bryant was killed due to a helicopter accident early Sunday morning.
Bryant was just 17 years of age when he began his prolific professional basketball career, entering the NBA Draft straight out of his alma matter Lower Merion High School. Highly credible references such as the late Red Auerbach would quickly take notice of soon-to-be league emerging talent, stating that Kobe was “going to be a hell of a player”, following his 1996 pre-draft workout with the Boston Celtics.
Kobe would evolve in applying the basic “hard work + determination = results” equation of life by amplifying that to an extent like none other. A regimen that out of his very own volition, Bryant would remain committed by for two decades of NBA basketball. Were talking about a six-hour, waking up at 5-to-5:30ish in the morning routine. One followed by two hours of running, two hours of shooting, and two hours of weight lifting/ conditioning.
That chase to perfection began at a young age for Bryant who would show up for his 7 a.m. high school basketball practices two hours early, and would challenge teammates following those practices conclusions to one-on-one games to 100. Yes 100.
Bryant would make sure he’d walk-off the NBA floor without any “what if’s” or “perhaps I should’ve”. He left everything to the sport he loved and made even that much more enjoyable to watch for us fans at home regardless of where that is.
An embodiment of passion-driven determination to maximize one’s full potential in it’s highest possible level. That was Mamba Mentality. It goes well beyond the sport of basketball or even sports in general. To allow your ambitions to drive you towards an almost inconceivable length that many aren’t willing to endure. That was Kobe Bryant. He wasn’t like your prototypical 6-foot-6, 212-pound freak athlete, much like we see on a yearly basis at the collegiate level. No. Kobe Bryant quickly ensured himself that he would be much more and set himself apart, light-years away, with a sense of cockiness or swagger alongside him every night on the floor. A demeanor that best explains Bryant’s 36 total NBA game-winners. A league-record mind you.
“I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, that I’m willing to work harder than you”- Kobe Bryant to Jay Williams
The man was able to play at one of the most elite levels we’ve ever witnessed for such an extended period of time, due to the fact that he was the first to show up to the gym and last to leave.
It’s that reputation that followed Bryant throughout his entire career, (well deservingly to say the least), which allowed us to witness Bryant hurdle over the trial of going from Shaquille O’Neal’s sidekick to Mr. Laker.
Not many can say that.
In an era of avoiding and dismissing the very idea of adversity in today’s NBA, it’s incomprehensible to apply the necessary conviction to what Kobe Bryant was and just how underappreciated his career can be misconstrued at times.
Critics will tell you he was a bad teammate. Well, that’s because Bryant’s mindset and work ethic were beyond our capabilities of understanding from the perspective of fans, players, coaches, and just about anyone that wasn’t Kobe Bryant himself.
They’ll tell you he was a ball hog. Well, at times that may have been true. Nevertheless, that label is nothing more than an improper understanding of Kobe’s mindset, aggressiveness, and willingness to win at all costs.
From 1996 to 2016, Bryant constructed quite the resume following one of the greatest players we were privileged enough to witness:
- Five-time NBA Finals Champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
- Two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010)
- NBA Most Valuable Player (2008)
- 18-time NBA All-Star (1998, 2000-2016)
-11-time All-NBA First Team (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006-2013)
- Two-time NBA Scoring Champ (2006, 2007)
- NBA Slam Dunk Champ (1997)
- Both numbers 8 and 24 retired by the Los Angeles Lakers
- Father to four daughters
Yet despite his countless accolades, records, and achievements that made Kobe Bryant that hero he was to millions around the world, his work wasn’t done following the end to his career on the basketball court.
Bryant’s effort’s towards applying his great world-wide influence in bettering the viewership and respect to female athletics were noteworthy and incredibly respectable.
Being a father of an all-daughter family himself, Bryant was greatly devoted to ensuring that all, despite gender, would receive their recognition for their capabilities as an athlete. Something that Bryant would be seen doing time-after-time. Making constant WNBA appearances courtside, attending USA women’s soccer games, and most importantly, being aside from his daughter Gianna who also passed due to the heart-aching crash yesterday morning.
A critic’s typical reputation, whether or not deserved, would quickly be put past Kobe who almost seemed humbled or even grounded once fatherhood entered his life.
Many athletes/ figures expressed their grief and condolences to the Bryant family through yesterday’s battle of emotions. One that many of us continue to struggle to digest and accept today.
Bryant carried not only a winning tradition, being the head honcho of one sports most cherished franchises, but he played to the occasion of rivalry. A Boston/LA rivalry that has cemented its legacy of the all-time greats in sports history. Going 1-1 against the C’s and putting on a display of one of the all-time gutsiest NBA Finals performances in game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals where Bryant would score 23 points while collecting 15 rebounds en route to his second NBA Finals MVP.
The voice of Boston Celtics radio Sean Grande worded it best saying “As Celtics fans, we didn’t think Kobe Bryant could break our hearts one more time. We were wrong.”
To Kobe Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Ara Zobayan, and Gianna Bryant, may their memories forever live on.
It was just a night prior to the time of the incident that Bryant alongside his daughter Gianna, were in attendance to witness current Laker LeBron James pass Kobe Bryant in the all-time NBA scoring list. Just makes matters that much more difficult to accept.
Bryant remains survived through his wife Vanessa (married 18 years), and their three daughters, Capri (born June 2019), Bianka (3), and Natalia (17).
While to many of us, Kobe Bryant was an idol, an all-time favorite, or even superhero, he left us more than that. A father, husband, and mentor to many.
He left us more than just an athlete.
Artwork by: Gio Rivera (@sportsguygio)