Ode to Kobe Bryant | Mamba Day 2016
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
Today marks the last day we will see Kobe Bean Bryant in an NBA jersey. We decided that it would be best to get a paragraph from everyone to express what Kobe means to the game. Salute a once in a lifetime player when you see one.
Mensa Smith: If there is one thing I learned from Kobe Bryant, it’s that we must learn to love appreciate people while they are still here. We often get caught up in our own emotions agendas and that makes us judge people unfairly. It’s also true of human nature that we make resentful comparisons. My journey with Kobe Bryant has been one of love then hate, and now ultimately respect. I’m glad we had a Kobe Bryant, and there will never be another player like him. Now, as a young man trying to eventually be widely recognized as great, I respect and admire Kobe for what he is and what he will always be; an all time great basketball player who was an imperfect man. Kobe Bryant isn’t Michael Jordan or LeBron James, and that’s okay. He’s a five time NBA championship, one of the world’s all time great cold blooded competitors, and one of the greatest scorers of all time. Kobe Bryant has fans across the world, and even with his character flaws, one can argue that his individual greatness and his work ethic combined to change the negative perception on black people. Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that what he accomplished was extremely difficult. He’s a hero to many, a father to a couple, and a legend to all. If there is one thing I learned from Kobe Bryant, it’s that we must learn to love appreciate people while they are still here. We often get caught up in our own emotions agendas and that makes us judge people unfairly. It’s also true of human nature that we make resentful comparisons. My journey with Kobe Bryant has been one of love then hate, and now ultimately respect. I’m glad we had a Kobe Bryant, and there will never be another player like him.
Howard Nedrick, Jr: Looking back, Kobe Bryant was my favorite player to hate back when his team destroyed Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals (4-1 Lakers). His demeanor on and off the court made me the biggest hater for anything Kobe related. I have to admit, this guy was nice. The kind of shots he would make felt like I was watching 2K in living form (way before Steph Curry leveled up into the new 2K). As he evolved over the years, I have to admit his journey from young fiery Kobe to composed sage Kobe has garnered admiration and respect from me towards his legacy. I truly believe he is the closest we are ever going to get to another Michael Jordan. Black Mamba has set the league up perfectly for the next generation of stars and I am thankful for everything he did for the game of basketball (regardless of the hate). He is one of the greatest to ever grace this game. I am proud to say I was able to see this man play, dominate, succeed, and thrive.
Chris McManus: What more can I say about the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant? He was one of the reasons why I patterned my competitiveness throughout my time as an athlete in high school as he desired to win. It was like it was the only thing that important to him at one point aside from his family and that tunnel vision is what is necessary to reach success. It’s one of the main reasons he is a 5-time NBA Champion and until recently, performed at a high level despite the amount of injuries that piled up to his frame. When he announced his retirement this season, it just happened to fall on the same week the Lakers were playing the Wizards in DC. It didn’t take long for the ticket prices to surge and I was short on time to go watch him one last time. It will be something I would surely regret as that game was one of the few where he was in prime form at my team’s expense. But looking and hearing the crowd at the Verizon Center, the Wizards fans didn’t care much about the loss as they were seeing a legend perform one more time.
Marc Cameron: Over the past few years in my basketball fandom, I’ve never enjoyed myself more than showing my disdain for a player like Kobe Bryant. It is difficult to use the word “like” at this moment, due to having issues with even fathoming a future star that will mirror his dedication. Imagine going into a position at the age of sixteen with the mindset of becoming a legend, all while completing the goal in a twenty-year commitment. The high and low moments in the career of Kobe have all assisted in making him one of the NBA’s most polarizing players, but the accolades attached to his name will guarantee his story does not live in infamy. We are currently at a point in the NBA where rookie guards were either a year old, or not conceived at all around the time of Bryant’s rookie season. Although viewing his final moment against Utah this Wednesday may be a very emotional experience for those who watched him since his beginning, it is thrilling to know fans will not have to seek far to view his influence on today’s players and future stars to come.
Jasmine Hardy: With only one story left for Kobe to tell on the hardwood, the Black Mamba has undoubtedly become one of the greatest players of our generation. Over the past 20 years, Kobe has led the Lakers to 5 NBA Championships, 18 All-Star games and 33,570 points—Scoring more than 40 points against every team in the NBA for career highs on opponents (if you can tell me who else has done that, drop them in the comments section.) Kobe has paved the road for young players today, being amongst the few who have played against legends like Jordan, James and even both Curry’s, he sets the tone every time he walks on the court. With his final days soon approaching, I can confidently say the game will never be the same. Sad to see him go, but happy to have been able to see the legend from beginning to end.
Oluwatosin Makinde: Kobe Bryant. As an 11 year old, the name rang bells, but as an immigrant to America, football (soccer) was always my thing; eventually I enjoyed basketball. One random day, in my teenage years, I was watching ESPN and saw that Kobe is a huge football fan, I perked up with excitement, that’s when I made a connection with who Kobe is and began to watch more of his game and was taken aback. Seeing Kobe retire is surreal, you grow up watching these athletes and when they start breaking down, losing athleticism, stop doing superhuman acts in the court, it reminds you that life short and you should strive to be the best at whatever it is you’re doing. Twenty years in LA, Kobe has given us a lifetime of ranging emotions, lasting memories and quotes. Thank you Kobe, for being you.
“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.” – Kobe Bryant
Jeffrey Esperance: One paragraph will never suffice how I really feel about Kobe Bean Bryant but I will try it anyways. Kobe Bryant is more than just the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 career points (my hate for Lebron won’t acknowledge his achievement). More than just the player who is an 18 time all star, made the All NBA Team 15 times, and a 5 time NBA Champion. More than just the guy who scored 81 points in a game. Like him or not, he’s this generations Michael Jordan. He’s the personification of hard work. I’ve never seen anyone in my 25 years of life, work so diligently and continue to improve themselves year after year. He embodied every aspect of the words true grit. I’ve witnessed this man play with injuries that I couldn’t imagine doing any activity besides sleeping. You’ve dazzled us, left our jaws on the floor, and made me cry several times being that I’m a lifelong Spurs fan. Clearly it’s time for you to go but thank you for all of the amazing memories that’ll last a life time.
Dondre Joseph: I have been here for two days trying to come up with something, anything I could write about Kobe’s retirement. How do you succinctly sum up the career of someone as mercurial as Kobe? It is impossible. Kobe has given us too many iconic moments (good and bad) that I could wax poetic about for days. It’s why I’ve decided that now is the best time to say thank you. I know it’s incredibly cliché, but I didn’t have a platform to say thank you when Jeter retired, and it still bothers me. With that being said, I have to give back to the man to gave me so much. Thank you Kobe, for getting me into basketball. Tuning in to the NBA on NBC every Saturday afternoon, I would sit through disappointing Knicks games and boring filler games to see you, Shaq, Fish, Fox and the crew take on the best of the West. Thank you Kobe, for the 00-02 three- peat. I saw some of the best basketball ever played by such great playoff teams and so many emotions were felt. Thank you Kobe, for the 2004 NBA Finals. As good as those Lakers teams were, learning that sometimes it just doesn’t go your way was something I came to realize was overwhelmingly invaluable. Thank you Kobe, for the 2005-2007 years. They were incredibly dark times for everyone, but your drive and determination to “put da team on ya back doe” provided us with unforgettable shooting performances (81!) and gave rise to the pop culture “Kobe!” shot. Thank you Kobe, for another three straight finals. You should have had six championships but life would have preferred Paul Pierce to pretend he was the second coming of Willis Reed. You got your revenge in 2010 which 1A of “Greatest NBA Finals of the 21st Century” (1B being 2013). That was the best summer ever. Finally, thank you Kobe, for these last four years. It’s been incredible to follow you on your journey from budding young superstar to certified top ten NBA great, but the Kobe we know now isn’t the Kobe we once knew and speaks to the duality of man. It’s been increasingly refreshing to see you let your guard down and become incredibly introspective. You (and by extension us) couldn’t afford to be anything but an intense psychopath, but behind the façade is an unusually relatable Kobe, imparting wisdoms for everyone and genuinely being a fun conversationalist. I’m looking forward to post- NBA Kobe and my wish is that we get him sooner rather than later. I would go on but I was told to keep it short and simple and I fear I may have gone on too long. If there’s anything I’ve realized over the course of writing this, it’s that I’m not afraid to call you my favorite basketball player anymore. I can’t say I’ll always go to bat for you because some things are indefensible (See: Chris Childs two piece, no biscuit & no bev), but I won’t let your legend die. Thank you Kobe Bean Bryant, for everything.
Arthur Jones: As Kobe Bryant’s Career comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on just how legendary “The Black Mamba” truly was. To some he was the greatest to ever wear the illustrious purple & gold uniform. To others, Bryant was a one of a kind shooting guard whom you loved to hate; especially when he came into your hometown and grabbed the living soul out of the home team with a clutch game winning play. One thing that can be agreed on that will never be refuted in any sports forum is that Kobe Bryant is a true warrior in every sense of the word; the Absolute last of a dying breed in any sport. Night in and night out, Kobe left it all on the court. Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying the man’s inhuman pain threshold, which he has showed nightly throughout his legendary career. Kobe has played through numerous knee injuries, broken fingers, ankle sprains, and even completed free throws after rupturing his Achilles, just so he’d still be potentially eligible to still compete in the game. According to doctors, Kobe’s index fingers are the equivalent to an arthritic 83 year old man due to him delaying so many surgeries. Obstacles that would break a normal player’s spirit only motivated Bryant to come back harder than ever. What we see on the outside is a wounded warrior. But those wounds tell a greater story: the story of a champion. April 13, 2016 will be a day that will be remembered throughout all of sports. A day which we knew was coming, but was truly never ready for. While I was one of those few aforementioned that loved to hate Kobe Bryant while he played, there is no denying that I revered the man as one of basketball’s all-time greats. Kobe Bryant taught me that there is no obstacle that you can’t overcome, as long as you have the will to succeed. With 5 rings, 18 all-star selections, 11 all NBA 1st team selections, and the franchise scoring leader for the Los Angeles Lakers, I doubt anyone would disagree with that assessment. Rest well Kobe Bryant. Time to ride into the sunset.
Derrick Sholes: Confession, I’m not the biggest fan of the Black Mamba moniker, so regardless of what the Swoosh has christened today, it’s Kobe Day, hell, Kobe Week. And because using one of the many (ridiculous) nicknames he possesses to help celebrate his incredible career on his final day on the job doesn’t do it for me as simply as “Kobe Day” does. Kobe’s name alone is personal for me growing up in Southern California during his ascendance to superstardom. It means more than just the guy I tried to imitate on and off the court, more than a guy who’s considered a selfish asshole and relentlessly chucks, even more than those five rings we will proudly remind others of. The name Kobe, for me, on this day represents that scrawny 17-year-old kid who was also growing up in Southern California twenty years ago but grew into an idol for this scrawny kid to look up to when there wasn’t anyone else. Kobe, instead of Mamba, humanizes a complicated individual, but properly represents the childhood hero I’ve been blessed to see every night and will deeply miss once he disappears into the tunnel one final time. For someone I’ve seen play in person only a handful of times, on TV thousands of times and who’s given me millions of memories, it’s sad today is his last game but I look at it as the first day of cherishing his career for the rest of my life. I’m counting down the days of being able to tell my grandchildren about him just like I counted down the seconds on the imaginary clock in my backyard preparing to take the final shot as he did. I’m grateful I had the pleasure of growing up with him on my TV every night. Thank you, Kobe.
Malcolm Wyley: For me, Kobe has been there since the beginning. My first NBA game was in 1998, a playoff game at the Forum. I was six and therefore not the astute basketball observer that I would like to think I am now, but I had foresight enough even then to know that what I was watching from #8 was something special, and would prove to be even more so over time. At halftime as they headed through the tunnel toward the locker room, I reached over the railing to high five Shaq, Eddie Jones, and Kobe, then five years younger than my current 24, two years away from his first of five championship parades down Figueroa. It’s the only time I got to see him play live. An NBA without his presence seems unfathomable, even now, knowing for an entire season that this very day was indeed just over the horizon. So many times, you knew, your grandma knew, everyone knew who was taking that last shot. Everyone. And even still, the ball would somehow get to him, and he’d find the space, dance his way around defenses in a way only he and the best footballers on the planet can, pull up a shot that any other player would be benched for even thinking about taking, and drill it. As much as the possibility of him leaving presented itself, I will always appreciate, to the best of my ability, his twenty years of service in his beloved golden armor. He knew all of this would happen before his name was even called. It’s as if his career had already happened, and he was simply there to recreate the highlight reel, which he did, over and over and over again. And to think twelve players were drafted before him.
Jay Adams: Basketball is a game that had been passed down to me by the elder statesmen in my life (read: my uncles and their friends). They taught me how to appreciate each moving part of an offense as gears that have a specific job to keep the machine moving in unison. I learned the intricacies of the game from them, which often lead to arguments between my mentors because they were usually drunk and had varying opinions on what made a great team; however, the one thing that they could agree on was the greatness of his Air-ness himself, Michael (B.) Jordan. I began to form my own opinions of the game after sitting through many drunken tirades filled with enough colorful curse words to recreate the ’96 All-Star jersey. I didn’t know much, but I could feel that there was one player outside of Michael who was special to me. My introduction to this player would be during the 1998 All-Star game in New York, where he wore the number 8 on the chest of his forum blue and gold jersey, right below the iconic Lakers logo, with the name Bryant across his shoulder blades. Kobe would become my favorite athlete across all sports for the next 18 years of my life, but this was the first time that I had actually gotten to see him play— a moment that I will never forget.
When Skip tapped me to write a small paragraph for #MambaDay, I couldn’t figure out a way to accurately summarize how much Kobe has meant to my life over the past 18 years. One paragraph can’t properly tell the story of all of the lunch table arguments, turned into barstool debates, that would come as a result of being a Kobe Bryant fan. I can’t summarize in one paragraph the disappointment that I felt from not seeing an 81 point scoring effort from my idol and having to defend why he wasn’t a ball hog at school the next morning. It also doesn’t paint the picture of the ambivalence that I felt surrounding my hometown Pistons’ championship in ’04 over my beloved Lakers. One paragraph just isn’t enough. Today is the last game of a career that has captured 5 championships, 2 Finals MVP honors, 18 All-Star game nominations, and a trophy room full of other awards and records that Kobe (read: I) wouldn’t hesitate to remind you of if you have a doubt about what he’s done over 20 seasons. This doesn’t feel real to me. Will tonight’s matchup versus the Utah Jazz actually be Kobe’s last game or will he pull off some machiavellian stunt to revive his career as only he could? As much as I’d like to believe in the latter, I know that it’s time for him to hang up his sneakers and move on with the rest of his life. With that in mind, I can’t say much more than the following: Thank you.
Eric B: There’s no specific time in my life where I remember becoming a fan of Kobe Bryant. It always felt as if I justwas. There’s no intended cheesiness when I say that just as he was born to play basketball, I was here to be the biggest fan of his that I could. When our culture was obsessed with oversized jerseys, I had four of Kobe in various Laker color schemes. I was the kid arguing for Kobe over T-Mac on the school bus, which turned into arguing for Kobe over Tim Duncan in college, which turned into arguing for Kobe over LeBron in the work breakroom. As I write this at the age of 27, Kobe represents the entirety of my youth, and that’s what it is. To me, he WAS basketball. I grew up barely catching the end of Jordan, so Kobe was my Mike. He was the player who inspired me as a person, the player that made me feel as if I could do what I wanted if I worked hard enough. That talent wasn’t enough, but it was what you did after the talent that counts. There will never be a player that’ll capture my heart like Bean. When people say he represents the last of a dying breed of NBA player’s they’re exactly right. Plus, what other player’s name sounds as good out loud when you shoot a crumpled piece of paper into a trashcan from across the room?
Twenty years of the greatest work ethic to ever sprint the hardwoods of the NBA entire world. Kobe Bean Bryant on April 13th aka Mamba Day, we pay our respects to you. One of the greats. Forever8&24 in the Purple and Gold.