Numb. Stunned. Confused. Devastated. Heartbroken.
There will never be enough adjectives to encapsulate what many of us experienced upon hearing about the death of Kobe Bryant. Similarly, there will never be enough words to perfectly relay his basketball legacy and the impact he had on those around the world. What I can do is tell you why so many of us loved Kobe Bryant.
"KOBE!!!!" You could hear his name echoing in classrooms around the nation, as kids attempted to throw scrunched-up pieces of paper into trash cans. You could hear his name throughout households, as kids heaved balled-up clothes into their hampers. And without a doubt, you could hear his name shouted on basketball courts across the world, as people took fade-away shots at the rim. Why? Because Kobe Bryant achieved something that every person around the world wanted to emulate: greatness.
Kobe Bryant was an absolute monster on the basketball court. He was a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, a eighteen-time All-Star, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, fourth on the All-Time Scoring List, and had so many more basketball achievements to his name. Kobe could dunk on you. Kobe could cross you over. Kobe could hit a fade-away jumper with three defenders draped over him. Needless to say, Kobe could do whatever he wanted to you on the basketball floor. Based on which NBA team you rooted for, you either loved him or hated him. However, the reason you loved or hated him was the same: he was generationally great at basketball. His greatness would push his team to success, and single-handedly make opponents and their fans miserable. You can say what you want about Kobe, but there was no denying that he left it all out on the floor whenever he played. He once tore his Achilles and still limped towards the free-throw line to sink two shots before checking out of the game. That's cold-blooded, and that's why he was Kobe Bryant.
It would be enough to love Kobe for his basketball accolades, but what so many of us loved about him was his mindset. He was the founder and champion of the term "Mamba Mentality." This term, as described by Kobe Bryant, meant "constantly try[ing] to be the best version of yourself… It's a constant quest to try to better today than you were yesterday." This wasn't just a shallow saying; it was a lifestyle for Kobe Bryant.
If you looked at his work ethic, with regards to basketball, you could see this mentality in effect. There are countless stories of Kobe Bryant outworking all of his teammates. Whether it be practicing in his high school gym at 5 a.m., learning how to play left-handed because he injured his right shoulder, or refusing to leave a gym before putting up 800 shots, he outworked everyone.
And more importantly, this mentality was one that he wanted everyone to embody. As sports personality, Stephen A. Smith explained, "'Mamba Mentality' isn't just reserved for basketball… it was for any human being out there who had a dream… it was about going out and getting it." Stephen A. Smith was right, and Kobe proved this by applying this mentality to the rest of his life. There are stories about Kobe Bryant constantly texting business executives and tech investors at 3 a.m., asking them questions about the world of business. When Kobe won an Oscar for his film, "Dear Basketball," he talked about how it took years of work to garner this achievement. He explained that he would read and write on game trips, ultimately "practicing and understanding how to tell stories. I'm reading Joseph Campbell and how to create art… this is going back 15 years… I don't just retire, write 'Dear Basketball' and luck into winning an Oscar. That stuff comes from hard work, from studying for 15 years." Not to mention how he applied this mentality to his family, as he explained that "if you do the work, if you work hard enough dreams come true… and if you guys can understand that, then I'm doing my job as a father."
This is why we loved Kobe Bryant. Rest easy, Legend.