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Kobe: Thank You For This Incredible Journey

by Noah

Below we have presented a very touching letter from a die hard fan of Kobe. Though his fans all around the world were disheartened by the grim news of his retirement, this fan presents a look back into his glorious journey. Now that he has departed from this world, this letter feels like a fresh blow of memories.

I still remember how I first met you. That’s all thanks to my mom, whom I never know how I can repay. Rewind to 2002 and I am simply a 7-year boy with no remote interests. Falling asleep on the couch, my mom switches the TV to Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals. I become hooked instantly. I watch you dribble past defenders, shoot step-back fadeaway jumpers, dunk emphatically, and have such ease while dominating the hopeless Nets. You then end the game by jumping into Shaq’s arms and putting 3 fingers in front of the camera, smiling with your championship hat shifted sideways. I had no idea what most of this meant at the time, but after all the fun and swag I saw in maybe 4 minutes of action, I knew I had to check out what you were all about.

Within 1 month, I was on my park team, playing for the Knicks, ready to conquer the sport. My only guidance, you. You changed my life. After the beginning of the next NBA season, all I honestly anticipated in life was coming home from school, going to practice, and watching you seamlessly work on your craft. I started learning your tendencies, your swagger, your finesse. Your follow through, jab steps, pump fakes, and most importantly, your patented overbite, became my bread and butter on the court. Even if these newly acquired moves weren’t remotely near your perfection, I made sure people knew who I was trying to be. Fast forward to when I was 10 years old trying out for a club team: After stepping to the free throw line, dribbling 3 times, shrugging my shoulders, taking a deep breath, and shooting and holding my follow through, the coach said, “Man, I didn’t know we had Kobe trying out for our team!” That was all I wanted to hear and just know that I let everybody know about what that coach told me even if I was just a skinny Indian kid just barely breaking into the club basketball scene. Outside of my family, you were the only other person I looked up to. All the fun you had on the court was something I hoped to find on the daily. 

You have been my pride and joy ever since the first time I saw you. Riding the Kobe roller coaster throughout my childhood has been a hell of a ride. From crying uncontrollably after the loss in ’04 to the Pistons, to seeing you rise up without Shaq, to almost breaking my TV in ’06 after losing in 7 games to the Suns, to seeing you win your last 2 championships in ’09 and ’10, I have enjoyed every second of your greatness and will remember these moments for the rest of my life. BUT the number 1 moment for me had to be meeting you at your first annual Kobe Academy in 2006, which is still one of the best days of my young life.  I’ll never forget your smile, how BIG your hands were, and your swagger, which is just as real off the court as it is when you are suiting up for the purple and gold. YOU taught me what truly encapsulates passion, and I am searching for what my soul desires. 

And my god, your accolades: 5 time NBA champion, 4 time all star game MVP, 11 time All-NBA First Team, 9 time NBA-All Defensive First Team, NBA MVP, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist. The list goes on and on. All the crazy shots, unreal dunks, and the times you made Mark Jackson say, “Kobe is like death and taxes. Sooner or later, he is gonna get you!” You spoiled me and gave me a world where I could escape to and watch sheer talent dominate. I could always count on you to have a big game, accept responsibility for your actions, and not shy away from the spotlight. YOU taught me how to be a man, and I am so thankful for that.

Despite all of your achievements, mastery of the fundamentals, and basketball IQ, what most people will remember about you, including myself, will be your work ethic and mental toughness. You sacrificing friends at a young age to excel at the game, you shooting literally all night before practices, and you making Olympic athletes question their work ethic are just a few occasions that come to mind when I think about your desire to succeed. There will NEVER be another Kobe Bryant. You are the unquestioned greatest competitor this sport has ever seen. You don’t make excuses. You made two free throws on a torn Achilles because your team needed those points. You have literally played through hundreds of injuries and have arthritis in your pinky because success is more important to you than pain. You exemplify what it means to want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, and that is the most inspiring trait about you. YOU taught me how to master a craft by outworking every other competitor. I am fired up just thinking about your heart, man. 

Ever since your last ring in 2010, things haven’t gone the way you have expected and it really made me upset as well. I have spent countless hours thinking about what could have been if you didn’t get injured, if certain games went differently, and if Mitch Kupchak went in different directions with the Lakers roster. I just wanted you to have more rings because you deserve nothing less. However, your sacrifice of staying a Laker for life regardless of the situation is inspiring and will NEVER be duplicated. YOU taught me how to be loyal to those who treat you right, and I am forever grateful. 

And the last chapter in the journey came today, as you announced you will officially retire at the end of the year. I have been picturing how I would react to this day for the past five years and it still stings way worse than anticipated. I just want to wake up from this bad dream and go back to observing you, my muse. I haven’t been able to comprehend anything ever since the announcement and I am saddened that this journey with you has to come to an end. I hate Father Time with a passion and it really ails me that you can’t continue to dominate the game you love because of variables out of your control. 

Passion and Intimacy

You leaving the NBA signifies the official end of my childhood. I can’t say that I am still a kid if I turn on a Lakers game and I don’t see you on the court. It just isn’t right and I am unwillingly forced to accept this new phase of life. I am regretful I didn’t give basketball the same passion and intimacy you gave it as you made it your life, but know that I am dedicated to ensuring I give my career the attention it deserves. Just know every time I lace up my Hyperdunks and go ball out at the gym that I think of you and thank you for being the catalyst for my love of the game. Basketball is the only activity in my life that I know I will always have that allows me to gather my thoughts and feel at peace. 

You thanked us for this incredible journey tonight, but Kobe, THANK YOU FOR THIS INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. You have been so instrumental to my personal development. I’m going to miss you so badly because you taught me what passion, dedication, perseverance, motivation, swagger, confidence, and most importantly, what the Mamba Mentality, is all about.

Nothing but Love

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