It was 1:30 PM CST, and my roommate goes, “I just received a text from my friend, and he said ‘I hope this Kobe news isn’t true.” My heart immediately dropped. What was he talking about? We opened Google to search immediately but there wasn’t much showing up for about 5 minutes. But then we saw it – Kobe Bean Bryant, former Laker and surefire NBA Hall of Famer gone at age 41 from a helicopter crash.
When I started this website, I wrote a bio about myself on April 22, 2018, you can find here: Meet the Team: Jared where I wrote the following quote “I was at the heart of those 2010 Kobe/Lebron best player debates. I decided I’d die on team Kobe cause Lebron had never won a ring – how things change.” And how they do change. Kobe was my generation’s Michael Jordan. He was media prescribed “the closest thing to MJ,” and I loved it. I had always heard how MJ was the greatest player of all time, so I enjoyed the next best thing, Kobe. Coming off the ’02 season, the Lakers had won 3 straight NBA titles and Kobe was on top of the world. As a kid, I would go out to the driveway every day and try to imitate all of his moves that I reasonably could. I couldn’t dunk but I could get into a triple-threat stance at the elbow and do a couple jab steps before hitting a fallback jump shot. That was Kobe’s signature move in my mind.
In the mid-2000s things came crashing down on Kobe, whether it was his court case or the Shaquille O’Neal breakup, things took a downward turn. The team muddled in mediocrity for a few years, with multiple reported attempts the team even almost traded Kobe. Dallas was the top trade destination, but the Mavericks did not want to include Dirk Nowitzki in any trade talks circa 2007 so that halted the discussion. The Lakers then acquired Pau Gasol in 2008 and vaulted back into the championship conversation. Right around this time, you could feel a shift in Kobe. For his entire career, he had wanted to crush everyone and sought out total domination. At this point, he started to care about his legacy more. It wasn’t a momentous shift, but small actions he took in leading the Lakers to back-to-back titles showed he was changing.
Kobe wrapped up title number five in 2010, and after that, you could sense an even bigger shift in him. He was still the same competitor on the court, but he had started to patch up his relationships off the court. His relationship with Shaq improved, and more and more stories started to come out about him from journalists that couldn’t get time beforehand. In 2012, he was on an Olympic team with LeBron, D-Wade, KD, Carmelo, and others where he made the biggest impact in influencing his peers. He raised those teammates game to a level they hadn’t reached before, seemingly because they learned how the Mamba did it.
I always gravitated toward Kobe as a basketball player. LeBron came across as this mythical greek god, that was put on this earth to play basketball. I knew I could never play like LeBron, I wasn’t ever going to hit 6’8″, or perform athletic dunks from nearly the free-throw line. I’ve been lifting for a long time but my muscles still haven’t developed like LBJ’s. But Kobe’s skillset seemed more attainable. He had the athleticism early in his career, but then it was his tireless work ethic that propelled him. He had a wide array of moves, whether it be from the post, mid-range or from three, Kobe was a lethal scorer anywhere. It was always must-see TV for me to see Kobe Bryant catch the ball in isolation with that look in his eye, seeking out total domination. I figured that could be me someday if I went outside and worked on my jab step from the elbow before hitting a mid-range jump shot.