Remembering Kobe

Don’t Big Bro Me

You could tell he wasn’t too happy about any of it. Even though the Lakers were winning and would eventually take it all—three straight years—Kobe Bryant wasn’t buying fully the “Big Brother, Little Brother” line Shaquille O’Neal was giving everybody about the 1999-00 Lakers.

Oh, Bryant smiled—most likely through clenched teeth—while talking about how he was just fine with the hierarchy on the team. But everybody knew differently. It didn’t matter whether O’Neal was six years older than him or 60, Bryant wasn’t a supporting actor. But what was he going to do, rebel? Three years earlier, he had schemed and maneuvered to wind up in L.A., where Lakers GM Jerry West was clear that he wanted to make a free-agent run at the Shaq. Did he think the big man was going to step aside and let a teenager be out front?

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The Lakers were on their way to 67 regular-season wins and the title, so Bryant would have looked pretty bad if he complained and caused problems in the middle of that. Lakers coach Phil Jackson wouldn’t have tolerated it, anyway. So, in the locker room in Philly, after an 87-84 victory, while the 21st-century “Showtime” circus swirled, Bryant smiled, talked about how much he liked winning and waited.

Waited for the team to be his. Waited to become the big brother. His conflict with Shaq has been well-documented, but it is kind of silly to expect any star to enjoy being an understudy. Bryant was made for the leading role, from the time he started playing ball at Lower Merion HS until his retirement, when he scored 60 in his last game. He was the featured performer, as he thought he should be.

And few people have handled it as well. Sure, things weren’t always perfect in Mambaland. Bryant could be petulant. He could be abrasive. The great ones aren’t usually so easy to deal with. But he did get those two titles without O’Neal, and you know he just loved proving to everybody that it was HIS team that won it. His 20-year career was a wild one, with enough accomplishments to fill 10 NBA résumés. There haven’t been too many like it, and not just because of the championships, 18 All-Star appearances and more than 33,000 points. There are actors, and then there are movie stars. There are stars, and then there are icons. A lot of people want to achieve that status, but it is only the rare few capable of summiting that mountain. Bryant was one. He may not have enjoyed being that “little brother”, but when he finally was able to step forward, he did it bigger than just about anybody else.Michael Bradley #53

The Aura of Kobe

Allow me to take you on a brief Los Angeles journey for a few moments. As a man that was born in 1979 and grew up in LA, obviously, figures like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy (et al) dominated my childhood. I was in total awe of the “Showtime” Lakers and was left equally as dejected when the run was ended in such a shocking manner as Magic made his announcement and subsequently retired in 1991. After some lean years that were also promising, we Angelenos were suddenly blessed with the “Baddest Big Man” in the game, Shaq, to go along with this lanky, rail-thin kid from somewhere called Lower Merion. While the history on Kobe and Shaq was unquestionably a dynastic experience, Bryant’s legacy is and was something almost unprecedented in professional sports.

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The man played 20 years for the same organization, had an unbelievable amount of success and also found a way to become the embodiment of what it meant to be a Laker. That may sound incredibly cheesy or even cliché to some, but that was the reality for my generation as well as those that have followed. From the air balls in Utah to the first run for a title…we felt that. From the struggles to coexist with Shaq to his off-court difficulties and mishaps…we felt those as well. Along with all the rings and triumphs, came the misses and pitfalls—we felt ALL of them. Easily, one of the more polarizing figures in the history of the NBA (if not beyond), as even those that were not fans of Bryant felt his presence.

Muhammad Ali is credited for a clever anecdote that essentially states: The true mark of a champion is being able to still get up and train or compete at 5 a.m. even though you woke up in silk pajamas. Kobe not only found a way to do it, but he normalized it; even to the point where it was one of the driving forces behind his general marketing campaign. Far from a ploy or scheme, rather, Kobe found a way to become the heartbeat of Los Angeles for the better part of two decades.

He was gritty.

He was box office.

He was maniacal.

Just like every other human being, he was imperfect.

Kobe found a way to seemingly get everything out of every moment.

In a town literally built on celebrity, he was the star amongst stars. If you had the opportunity to be around him, you can sort of understand what the late Charlie Murphy spoke of when he mentioned the late Prince almost having a visual aura surrounding him. Kobe had that. Whether you loved him or hated everything he stood for, the reality is, he’s likely your favorite player’s favorite player. His impact on the game’s history was incredible, but the way current and upcoming players hold his game with such reverence, all but guarantee Kobe will likely go on influencing generations of players for years to come.—Jabari Davis #24

Imperfect Perfection

At this point, there are thousands of anecdotes on the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant and mine is not otherworldly remarkable but I believe it does paint a picture of how significant he has been to the NBA landscape over the last 25 years. 

My earliest basketball memory is me on my first competitive team at 9 or 10. Bryant and Allen Iverson had just taken the League by storm and after a practice, my coaches were in a heated—and I mean heated—debate over who the better player was. That next year, Iverson would win the MVP award and Bryant would win his second championship. I remember thinking even then, “This is just outrageously fun.” Basketball is amazing and the discussion around the game, in that same determined spirit of competition, was the lens in which my passion for hoops really took off. 

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To bring this full-circle Zion Williamson was asked about Kobe Bryant following his game Sunday and he said, “He meant a lot to me growing up, I respected the hell out of him.” Williamson was born 17 days after Bryant lifted his first Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2000. Williamson was 5 when Bryant scored the infamous 81-points vs. the Toronto Raptors. 

For two decades, fans across the globe reveled in who he was as a competitor—even when he wasn’t nice, even when teammates called him out, even when the Lakers were losing. It wasn’t because he was the son of an NBA player, nor because he had jump out of the gym athleticism. It’s because his gut was made of steel wool and he attacked basketball with a blue-collar tenacity. Even when it was the wrong play, he made it. Even if it was a bad shot, he took it. Even if it cost him a friend, he forced the issue. 

Bryant left everyone inspired, even his critics, because his focus was transfixed on winning and he went to work every damn day. Rain or shine, if he was physically able to do so, Bryant punched that clock and stayed for overtime. 

The world is unfair, as we’ve seen this week and not everyone can perform even a semblance of the feats Bryant did but he inspired millions because everyone could aspire to how dedicated he was to what he chose to do when we woke every single morning.Josh Eberley #41

The Kobe Way

I had received a phone call in the early afternoon from someone at the NBA. “Not sure if true, but there are reports that Kobe died in a helicopter accident.”

Like many others, I was in disbelief.

Not that I thought he was immortal. Kobe, like all of us, was not infallible, but it was Kobe Bryant. He had spent a career defying convention and turning what would be unsurmountable odds for most into triumph.

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As a high-school phenom he went against the advice of many, choosing to turn pro. He did so with an assuredness that belied his age. He had the confidence and swagger of a young man who had taken Brandy to the prom, beaten many grown-ass pros on the court and had eyes set on bigger fish. He had sunglasses propped up on his head during the press conference and even threw in a contemplative comedic pause for good measure before announcing his intent to skip a grade. Even at a time when high school prospects were beginning to be in vogue, most teams were still drafting on size (the 6-11 Kevin Garnett went fifth the year before) and in spite of his athleticism and skill set, many teams—12, to be exact, but some were ones that Team Bryant dissuaded from taking him—passed on the 6-6 Bryant. He’d make all of them regret that decision and open the floodgate to the high school revolution, size or position be damned.

This was a 19-year-old who never allowed his teen rookie standing, his 15.5 minutes per game over just 71 games and postseason debutant status determine whether he’d take the big shot. He’d famously throw up four airballs in the closing seconds of a regulation and overtime of Game 5 of the West Semis against the Jazz. As a result, we got Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttlesworth as Kobe declined the starring role in He Got Game after those Game 5 airballs, choosing to dedicate his summer—and let’s be real, his next 19 summers—to the game of basketball, birthing what would be Mamba Mentality.

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There was a time when Kobe was anything but a sure thing. Over his first two seasons, he started less games than his first jersey number, and was used primarily as a defensive meat shield to throw on perimeter players. He was a bit like the overzealous little brother at the pickup games of older guys, eager to prove himself at any opportunity that he belonged. Well, he did. He eventually pushed Eddie Jones, an accomplished two-time All-Star out of his position, and would eventually have his sights on the biggest dog in the yard, Shaq, for alpha status. For Kobe, it was always about the work, the journey, the dedication to honing the craft; the resulting championships merely a coincidental byproduct. Kobe never could accept Shaq’s less than total commitment, even if the end result was a championship, which happened three times. Kobe would wrest the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and with a snap, Shaq would be gone. Like the comic-book villain/hero’s quest to restore order to the universe, it wasn’t personal when it came to Kobe—it was just basketball.

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After Shaq left, many thought he took with him any chance of more titles for Laker Nation—and they weren’t really wrong. Every other previous Lakers title were built around a center—from George Mikan, to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the recently departed Shaq. Kobe would get some big man help in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but the Lakers would not be a big man-centric team. Those two post-Shaq titles were undeniably Kobe’s squads. The last one putting Kobe one up on Shaq (a point not lost on either man) and one closer to MJ. Kobe would not get six, but once again, he upended the narrative, and wrote his own.

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If Kobe never played another minute after tearing his Achilles tendon, nothing about his career would really change. His position in the record books was already set at that point, the legend of Kobe was written, his place among the basketball pantheon already carved and his reputation as a tough player was confirmed with a thick medical file of assorted broken body parts, some of which would be ailments he’d have to learn to deal with for life. But when he laid out on Staples Center floor on April 12, 2013, no one had any idea that he has just suffered one of the most debilitating and painful, by most accounts, injuries in sports. He just sat up, massaging his leg, barely a grimace to be found. Later on we’d learn that Kobe was trying to “roll down” his Achilles (imagine the tendon as blinds that roll up angrily when ruptured) and he actually tried to convince trainer Gary Vitti to tape it up like a loose bumper so he could keep playing. He would casually stay in the game to shoot his free throws as if he was alone in a gym during one of his legendary 4 a.m. workouts. He would limp off the floor on his own power—no “Flu Game” lean on a teammate and certainly no wheelchair theatrics. He could’ve hung up his Nikes—he was 34 and if the Lakers’ championship window was a sliver open with a healthy Kobe, was now closed shut. The speculation was grim and the doubters came out in droves to sing Kobe’s eulogies. Eight months later, he would step foot on an NBA court against the Toronto Raptors, the same team he once dropped 81 on. In many ways, Kobe’s 20 points in 29 minutes eight months after an injury that have ended many careers was every bit as astounding as Wilt’s 100. No, he didn’t need to come back and play two more seasons to prove a damn thing, but it made for an epilogue to his career. For Kobe, it’s not even “This is The Way”—there was simply no other way.

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In his post-playing career, Kobe’s obsession shifted—he went from a maniacal man hellbent on destroying everything on the basketball court to someone obsessed with inspiring greatness in others. In his death, he’ll continue this mission, maybe even more so than if he were alive. This tragedy is his last “Kobe shot”—you know, the isolation dribble drive into a wall of defenders, where he rises up to shoot a midrange fallaway jumper, the shot that leaves advanced metrics basketball fans groaning in frustration, right before it swishes through the net.—Ming Wong #2

Mamba Forever

It didn’t really hit me at first. I couldn’t process the gravity of what happened. What I’d heard. What I’d seen. Kobe Bryant? Gone forever? In a helicopter crash? His preferred mode of transportation around Los Angeles for years? Nah, man. That doesn’t make any sense.

Then it gets worse.

Gianna, too? His mini-me? His road dog? Mambacita? She was so young. Only 13. Whole life ahead of her. And we were all pulling for her success. We were all hoping to see if she could have the same impact in the women’s game that her father had in the NBA.

Then it gets even worse than that.

How many people were on the helicopter with them? Three? Four? Nine?! Unbelievable. Nine people. Four families. Changed forever. January 26, 2020. One of the saddest days ever.

And once I fully processed this; once I felt the full weight of everything that happened, I broke down. I cried… And have been at various times the last two days. Everything is a trigger.

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Seeing Austin Rivers, Tyson Chandler and PJ Tucker crying. Seeing Devin Booker and Trae Young crying. Listening to Dame talk about Kobe before the game and Melo afterwards. Watching Spencer Dinwiddie shed tears because Kobe called him an All-Star, even though Spence knows he may not ever get that call in his career. Seeing picture after picture after picture of Kobe, Gianna and how close they were. How inseparable they were. Not only did blood and DNA bind them, but the ball did, too.

It was all just too much. It felt like someone in my family died. And in a way, that’s exactly what it was. All of us who play professionally, or get paid to write about this game, or go on TV or radio to talk about this game, basketball connects all of us. We’re all one big family. Not always happy, and oftentimes, more dysfunctional than not, but who’s family isn’t like that?

Those of us in the basketball community, whether you bleed purple and gold, whether you loved or hated Kobe, we were all Lakers on Sunday. We were all members of the greater Los Angeles community feeling the pain and the sting of losing one of our own. An icon. A living legend. And we’re all still trying to understand and process the loss of a literal basketball god.

For those of us fortunate to be in the same orbit as Kobe, or in the same room—whether that room was a sold-out arena or a packed locker room—being around Bean made you feel something. It’s hard to describe, but you just knew you were in the presence of greatness.

For those of us fortunate to have been able to talk to Kobe, shake his hand, or take a picture with him, we are all cherishing those memories right now. The memories of knowing that we were truly in the presence of a one of a kind player and person.

The death of Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other people onboard that fatal flight is bigger than basketball. It’s a human tragedy that many of us may not ever get over, come to grips with, or make peace with because it just doesn’t make any sense. And even when we get an official report on what happened, it still won’t make the pain any better because their deaths still won’t make sense to any of us.

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But, be that as it may, we should all send our light, love and energy to Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri Bryant, the Altobelli family, the Orange Coast College baseball family, the Chester family, the Mauser family and the Zobayan family. Their pain is much more tremendous than our own, which should help us keep this situation in the proper perspective.

Yes, we as a basketball family are hurting. But the families of these very real people are feeling a pain that is so much stronger and deeper than any of us could even fathom.

On a basketball level, let us all remember the lessons Kobe Bryant taught us about hard work, competing, persevering, perfecting your craft, leaving it all on the line and living everyday to the fullest. Let us remember Gianna as a prodigy who will never get to see her talent fully blossom, but blessed us all with a glimpse of what that talent and ability could’ve manifested into.

And let us all remember the people in our own lives. The ones we may not have spoken to in a while over petty grievances, or those we may have wronged, and those who may have wronged us. Let us put those burdens down and find a way to make peace with them.

Life is incredibly short, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone. The only day we have is the one we wake up to. So in those 24 hours we are blessed to have, let us be the best we can be to ourselves, and each other.

That’s the “Mamba Mentality” Kobe Bryant would’ve wanted us all to embrace and put into practice in our own lives.

We love you, Bean. We love you, GiGi. You will both be missed.

But I can promise you both, this: Even in death, the legend of the Black Mamba and Mambacita will live on and be told forever.

Legends never die. They live on through us.—Bryan Crawford #26

Touched by Kobe

There will never be enough time to gather my thoughts on Kobe. So here goes. The relationship goes way back between my dad and “Jellybean” Joe. I remember the first time my dad—Naismith Hall of Famer and former Sixers beat writer Phil Jasner—told me about this kid who was going to be special. There was a famous workout with Jerry Stackhouse when the Sixers were getting ready to draft Stackhouse in 1995. Kobe apparently more than held his own in the workout as a teenager. Kobe would go to Saint Joseph’s and compete against NBA players and college players in the summer. There were times when Kobe was even the best player on the court, according to a number of people who were there for various reasons.

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Fast forward a number of years later at an NBA All-Star Weekend. I can’t exactly remember which one. But I walked up to Kobe at the media availability and he stops me in front of a big crowd. Kobe says, “I just saw your pops, He’s basketball royalty.” I just said, “Thank you.” After the interviews broke up, Kobe stops me again and I’m paraphrasing here—”Whatever you need, young Mr. Jasner, please let me know.” Kobe was real. I could tell immediately.

Another three or four years later, I was covering a Sixers-Lakers game in Philadelphia with my dad. I walked into the locker room before the game when Kobe was finished with his interview. He calls out, “Young Mr. Jasner!” I walk on over and sit down next to him and we just talked. He asked me about my life. He asked me about what it was like growing up and what sports I played. He asked me about my mom, who had recently passed away after a brutal battle with Lupus. He asked me how my dad and I were handling losing a loved one.

It was all real. No fluff.

I remember other reporters and camera operators watching me and wondering who I was to be getting this kind of time with Kobe. Notebooks were put away. Tape recorders were off. We just chatted. It gives me the chills now. It has brought me to tears on several occasions already.

This doesn’t feel real now. I’m numb.

I’ll never forget those moments. What a gem. Prayers to the entire family. I cannot fathom how a family can go on without a dad and precious daughter.Andy Jasner #27

The Imprint He Left

Death, in the age of social media and the 24-hour-news cycle, has become disturbingly commonplace. The loss of human life seemingly loses more and more impact with each viral video of someone taking their last breath. Rarely anymore does death prompt society to stop—not pause, but screech to a definitive halt—and reflect on the finality and trauma of this stage of life.

Kobe Bean Bryant did that. His death provoked one of those rare moments that took place when he died in a helicopter crash among with his daughter Gianna and seven other people. Even in the age of indifference, the world was moved to digest the loss of this father, this husband and this soon-to-be Hall of Fame basketball player. And Kobe was worth it.

For 20 years, NBA fans bore witness to Bryant’s journey, from a 17-year-old talented and cocky kid out of Lower Merion High School to an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion. A journey that was filled with ups and downs, controversies and triumphs, but a victorious journey, nonetheless.

Even still, not a single one of us could have ever expected Bryant’s time on earth to expire so soon. At 41 years of age, the Black Mamba was thriving post retirement off of the court as a father, mentor and businessman. His second act seemed to be as fulfilling as his first.

Kobe was inadvertently giving pro athletes a lesson on dominating life after the games were over. And now he’s gone.

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Kobe meant everything to sports fans, even if you hated him—most likely because he punished your favorite team—you had to give it up for his work ethic and determination. What differentiated Kobe from many other all-time greats was that he was accessible. He was a man of the people. Not in the jovial, everyone’s friend way that former teammate Shaq or Lakers great Magic are. But Kobe was just real. If you had the pleasure of talking to Kobe, you weren’t getting a character or performance, you were getting the real deal. For better or worse, Kobe was always going to be Kobe.

Bryant’s impact didn’t start or stop with basketball. He donated his time and resources publicly and privately to various organizations. Kobe and his wife Vanessa’s foundation consistently and quietly gave to various smaller grassroots causes, acting as a real-world example of Mathew 6:3: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Fans have already begun to call for displays of reverence ranging from Bryant being the new NBA logo silhouette to the League retiring the number 24. Even if none of those things ever happen, Kobe’s memory will never fade. From the patented fadeaway jumper to his relentless trash talk, we will see glimpses of Bryant in other players’ games for generations to come.  Even more important, we will see the example he left as a loving husband and father through Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.

Rest well, Mamba. Rest well.Branden Peters #63

Philly’s Son
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The landscape of basketball was forever changed once Kobe Bryant dedicated his life to the game. He often stood in the shadows of love, as he was often disliked and misunderstood, until later in his life. He was determined and disciplined like no other, however he enjoyed his downtime, which would typically be filled with laughter.

Bryant the athlete, was completely different from the practical joker. Those who knew him best, understood the duality and complexity of the man.

To fully tell the story of Kobe Bean Bryant, one must know that while he spent time living in Europe (Italy and France), due to his father Joe’s post NBA career, he is very much a native son of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

An avid Eagles fan, Kobe explained that his game comes directly from the streets and courts of Philly. “The attitude that I played with—the temper, the competitiveness, the trash talking—all comes from there. In the summer, spending long days at Tustin [playground], playing across [the street] from Overbrook [High School] where Wilt Chamberlain did his thing, know what I mean—it comes from there. So I’m really happy to be representing at that level and to have two Philly boys with their [retired] jersey hanging up there is pretty awesome.”

There are so many memories to share, so this will be brief with an anecdote from the 2008-09 championship season.

February 2, 2009
Los Angeles Lakers 126, New York Knicks 117
Madison Square Garden

Bryant began this game connecting on his shots, as he was picking the defense apart, and scoring at will. He poured in 61 points, and afterward I posed the question, asking why is was so special to eclipse a scoring record in Madison Square Garden?

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His reply: “Well, the building is special, because it’s the last one left. You know, the Boston Garden which I never played in, the [Great Western] Forum, then there’s this building…this is the last one that holds all the memories and all the great players. Coming in on the elevator shaft, and thinking about Willis Reed, thinking about Jerry West and all the great rivalries that they had in this building, it makes it very special.

That moment will always resonate with me because it showed both his basketball prowess and the respect that he had for the history of the game. Spike Lee used the postgame press conference in his film Kobe Doin’ Work, in which I made a cameo appearance.

No matter when I interviewed him, or whatever the subject matter was, I always made a point to ask questions about his hometown to show his admiration for Philadelphia. The Bryant and Cox family have deep roots there, and he embodied the blue collar work ethic and resiliency of the people.

His time on this Earth was short, spending half of his life playing the game he loved. He is gone, and will never be forgotten.Anthony Gilbert #1

Daddy’s Girl

Where do you find the words?

How do you explain something so tragic, so unforeseen, so unexpected that it still seems like a worldwide nightmare that we’re all still waiting to wake up from?

Even with the countless tributes, memorials and recollections from all those who knew, competed against, covered, played with, and had the privilege to share such a small piece of Kobe Bryant’s life, him no longer being here—with all he seemed destined to accomplish in his post-playing career—just doesn’t seem like reality.

As much as we love seeing our favorite athletes in their element and watching the progression of their careers, there is always a sense of enjoyment and nostalgia we get when we get to see them age and go onto doing things away from what defined so much of their lives.

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When I initially heard the news, it was shortly after hooping in a weekly Sunday morning run. Whenever you receive a sudden wave of text messages from close friends and family members in such close proximity of time, there’s a feeling where your heart sinks to your stomach as you try and brace for what those messages entail. When I begin opening each message, that feeling was confirmed and my day was halted in a cloud of disbelief. Making the tragedy even more heartbreaking and devastating was the confirmation that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was onboard the flight on their way to a basketball game with seven others.

As a father, I immediately thought of what those last moments could have been like. How do you try to assure your child that all is going to be fine in absolute chaos and danger when you’re powerless over the outcome? I then begin thinking of Kobe’s wife Vanessa, his three other girls and the families of those who would never see their loved ones again. We all hear that there are no mistakes when it’s your time to depart, but this all just seems so unfair.

It’s in moments like these why I always fought back as a child—and even still to this day—when someone would say, “it’s just a game.” Simplistically, it is. But, when you see just how impactful and connective the components and players of this beautiful game are, you realize it’s something way more.

Not having cable during my youth, the first memory I have of seeing Kobe was highlights of his 1997 Slam Dunk Contest win on Inside Stuff. I was immediately fixated on him once I begin learning about his story and there was no one who could tell me that I wasn’t going to go right from high school to the NBA.

Needless to say, that didn’t work out the way I had envisioned. But there was a feeling of growing up with Kobe that I didn’t get to have with Michael Jordan. While being aware of the dynasty era coming up, I hadn’t become fully immersed in the game as I did in the mid-’90s. So this loss is akin to losing that one relative who you always look forward to seeing on holidays and special occasions.

There is one Kobe story that will always stick out to me and it’s one that I tell proudly whenever I feel someone needs to be reminded of just how differently he was wired.

It was my second year of covering the Chicago Bulls during the 2009-10 season. It was one of those cold December nights but the United Center would be packed because the Los Angeles Lakers were in town. I arrived at the arena as soon as the gates open for media, which is 3:30 p.m. CST. I took off my coat, grabbed my recorder and notepad and made my way to the court to await the players and coaches to go through pregame warmups. On my way to the court, I could hear dribbling. Expecting to discover participants of the in-game entertainment rehearsing their routine, I was stunned to see Kobe on the court already having worked himself into a full sweat.

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What made this surprising to me was that he had just suffered an avulsion fracture to the index finger on his right hand just days prior to the game. After a poor shooting night and a loss the game before coming to Chicago, he was on the floor testing a new wrap on the finger to find some comfort in better controlling his shot. I watched each shot he took at game speed for about 45 minutes before he took his free throws, which normally concludes most players warmups. I trailed a few feet behind him as he made his way from the court to the locker room. A couple of Bulls players were making their way to their locker room and the sight of seeing Kobe already in a full lather just hours from tip off left them looking unsettled.

The game started and what came next was poetry. Twenty points in the first quarter in route to a 42-point night and victory in the house that Mike built. The next night, he would hit a game-winner in Milwaukee and just those moments confirmed every single story I had read about his tenacity, work ethic and will. I haven’t seen anything like that since and I’m certain I never will again. To those who got to cover him full time, I’m sure they have hundreds, if not more, of moments like this that speak to how much he put into what he did.

If you take away anything from this tragedy, please take heed of how Kobe lived his life. How he dedicated himself to his individual pursuits with both passion and desire. How he competed. How he put his all into anything he was passionate or curious about. How there wasn’t anything he didn’t feel he couldn’t achieve. Most importantly, you should focus on how he loved because we never know if tomorrow will ever come.Christopher Cason #22

Mamba Out, But Never Gone

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens intro in A Tale Of Two Cities serves as a duality for the life and times of Kobe Bryant. At his best, he was a champion, MVP, All-Star and Hall of Famer, a true basketball savant who dedicated his life to basketball. Kobe is the reason why many people ranging from players to media members love the game of basketball. Years ago, Kobe said he wanted to be remembered as a winner and an overachiever. His arduous work ethic allowed him to accomplish more beyond his wildest dreams.

His final moments on Earth is not how I choose to remember him and the eight other lives that were lost in this tragedy. We should always think about the good times. The smile on Kobe’s face whenever his daughter Gianna took the court was bigger than any smile he had during his championship runs with The Lakers, scoring 81 points, winning MVP and the myriad of other basketball accomplishments that will end with him enshrined as a Hall of Famer this fall.

From the outside looking in, he seemed happier for the overall success of his family more than any of his basketball accolades. He’s probably with Gianna in heaven right now working on her game under the watchful eye of late commissioner David Stern. Gianna or “Mambacita” as she was affectionately called, was growing into a splitting image of her father on the court.

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Seeing Kobe and Gianna at The Nets-Hawks game in December of 2019 was one of the most beautiful moments of the season. Kobe was pointing out different things that the players were doing so Gianna can add it to her arsenal, the same way he meticulously added different elements from other people’s game and mixed them to into his own bag of tricks. Watching him pass down basketball knowledge t0 Gianna and the countless players that sought out his advice post-retirement reminded me of the way that Bryon Scott and Brian Shaw use to sit Kobe down and pass down the gems that they learned from the previous generation.

In this tragedy, we can’t forget about Kobe’s wife Vanessa, and his surviving daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri. I hope they find the strength to get through this tough time in their life. Kobe might’ve walked through the arms of time, but his impact will remain with us even though he’s not here in the physical. I believe if you put your best foot forward, try the absolute best in whatever you’re trying to accomplish and never stop until you accomplish your goals, that’s showing Mamba Mentality. By adopting this lifestyle, Kobe’s spirit will linger in all of us and he’ll be reborn.

Mamba Out.Jammel Cutler #33