January 26, 2020, will go down in sports history as one of the saddest days ever. At around 11:30 a.m. PT, basketball and global icon, Kobe Bryant, 41, along with 8 others, including his 13 year old daughter Gianna, tragically passed away in a helicopter accident. This shocked the sports world and the world as a whole. Kobe was the idol of pretty much every single young basketball player born in the 1990s-2000s. He took the game to new heights with his incredible skill, wit, and ultra competitiveness and helped basketball and the NBA grow on a worldwide scale. His impact on the next generation of hoopers was insurmountable. He is the reason that hundreds of thousands of kids, including myself, decided to pick up a basketball.
Everyone wanted to be like Kobe.
Everybody wanted to hit the game winning shots like he did, we all wanted to have his Mamba Mentality, and we all wanted to have the same supreme confidence in ourselves, like he did. Kobe not only showed every young basketball player that nothing great can be accomplished if you didn’t put in every ounce of effort you had, but he inspired everyone who followed him and knew about him to perfect their craft. He didn’t care what you did, he just wanted everyone who was listening to him to know that if you use your time wisely, day in and day out, putting all your effort into your craft then you will become great at something.
The news of his death was so sudden, and came as an utter shock to the world. Former teammate of Kobe and basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal said his nephew came to him while he was working out in his house with son, Shaqir and his other nephew, and showed him his phone with the news report of Kobe’s death. He didn’t want to believe it, and told his nephew to get the phone out of his face, thinking it was a hoax at first.
O’Neal said, “I have never seen anything like this. All the basketball idols I grew up with, I see them, they’re old… The fact that we lost probably the world’s greatest Laker, world’s greatest basketball player… people say take your time and get better. But it’s going to be hard for me.”
Another Laker great and all-time basketball great, Jerry West said, “Saddest day of my life. I lost a brother in Korea and is the only thing that compares this to me.”
West was the reason that Kobe even ended up on the Lakers. He traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets, to acquire their first round pick in the 1996 NBA draft, a 17 year old Kobe Bryant, fresh out of Lower Merion High School in Philly. Jerry West knew he was a special player and saw in his eyes, even at the age of 17, that Kobe was destined for greatness. Jerry said Kobe was like a son to him. Kobe would always have dinner with West’s family as a young player, and because he couldn’t even drive yet, Jerry’s son would drive Kobe around everywhere and became Kobe’s first friend in LA.
The world was on pause on Sunday January 26, 2020, because we all lost someone who inspired people to become the best version of themselves. We lost a man who showed us that nothing great can be accomplished without dedication, persistence, motivation, passion and hard work. Kobe Bryant showed us all that the only thing we should be afraid of is mediocrity. We must be motivated by the fear of being average, and complacent, because complacency is evil. It takes away your drive, it makes you stop for a second, when you should never stop.
You should always keep pushing forward and reaching greater heights because we are all capable of doing so. Kobe said that the Mamba Mentality is, “To be on a constant quest to try to be the best version of yourself. That’s what the mentality is. It’s not a finite thing. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you were the day before.” It does not solely apply to sports. The Mamba Mentality is something that every single human being can and should have every single day. The drive to become the best at whatever you do, whether it’s playing the trumpet, kicking a soccer ball, skiing, singing, acting, writing, it does not matter.
If you have the Mamba Mentality and want to become the greatest at what you do, you can. And that is why Kobe was so important to almost everyone. He inspired us to be great, he instilled us with the confidence to believe that we can be great and he gave us the tools to accomplish that. For that, I am forever grateful and thankful for you, Kobe Bean Bryant. You and your beautiful daughter, Gigi, will always be remembered and your legacies will be carried on for an eternity.