BASKETBALL is one of the sports that many people around the world love and play. The Philippines is one of those countries where basketball is very close to every citizen’s heart. It is evident as basketball courts can be found in almost every street, whether in the urban or in rural areas. It is in a basketball court where aspiring players’ dreams can be fulfilled. In every swoosh of a ball, there is hope for them to continue playing harder to achieve the success they long for. In every hard work, there is an inspiration that drives every player to continue, although they may face obstacles. There is an example whom every basketball player looks up to who gives them guts and strong will. One of those role models is the legendary Kobe Bean Bryant. But let us know first: Who is Kobe?
“Shooting Guard, 6’6, from Lower Merion High School, number 24 on the floor, Kobe Bryant.” These words describe the young kid. He was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 NBA Draft straight out from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. On the day he was drafted, Kobe was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise filled with “chips” (championships) and basketball legends who formed the league to what it is right now. Kobe started his NBA career with lots of jaw-dropping highlights, including his aggressiveness inside the court that definitely made a name for himself. In fact, he won the 1997 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest because of his unbelievable creativity in his dunks. Shaquille O’Neal was also his teammate with whom he had created a chemistry that led for a championship run. It was in the years 00’, 01’, and 02’ when they had three straight championships, otherwise known as the “3-Peat.” Because of this, Kobe totally became a superstar and a global figure who moved many young aspirants, especially Filipinos. The way how Kobe did his moves, such as the turnaround fade away shots, pump fakes, and also his court persona, Black Mamba, truly amazed his admirers.
Where did the nickname Black Mamba come from? Almost all NBA players received monikers through their moves, but Kobe gave this
nickname for himself. In fact, it originated when Kobe was accused of sexual assault in 2003. At this time, he decided to change and separate his off-court persona from his on-court persona, giving himself the nickname, Black Mamba, inspired by the 2003 movie Kill Bill.
As he soared during his prime years in the league, Kobe became a part of every All-Star Game. Becoming a scoring champion, he won the 2008 MVP Award. But Kobe wasn’t completely contented, because he could not win an NBA ring without Shaquille O’Neal. With his unending hard work and being a gym rat, Kobe brought home a Championship to the City of Angels in 2009 and 2010, where he also won the Finals MVP.
After this, Kobe’s career continuously grew as he achieved many milestones. One of his biggest accolades was passing Michael Jordan’s all-time scoring record of becoming the fourth all-time scoring leader in the NBA. But injuries plagued his career, eventually forcing him to retire in 2016. One of the most heartbreaking moments in Kobe Bryant’s career was his Achilles tendon injury in 2013 during their game with the Golden State Warriors in their home court. Many fans were devastated as they saw Kobe in extreme pain as he shot free throws before struggling to walk towards the locker room.
Kobe Bryant’s farewell season was in 2016. A massive crowd of fans and players paid their respects to the living legend until his final game against Utah Jazz, where he delivered one of the most memorable games in NBA history. He himself scored 60 points, carrying the whole team in his back in the fourth quarter! After this, Kobe became a spectator in the league and focused his attention on his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Maria Onore Bryant. Gigi was a young aspirant and had the same passion as his father. Kobe coached his daughter’s team, and together, the father and daughter watched a few NBA games for Gigi to deeply understand the game.
Kobe was indeed joyfully loved by his family and his die-hard fans who continued to support him. But sadly, his life ended in a snap. News broke out that Kobe Bryant, with his daughter Gigi and all the passengers on board, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020. Tears, grief, and sadness filled the world of basketball. Millions of shocked fans worldwide paid homage for the basketball legend. His fellow NBA players took this tragic incident as a motivation to further cherish the game Kobe truly loved and inspire more players to pursue their dreams.
His words ring true: “Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.” Kobe Bryant’s games and strong mentality will remain in the heart and mind of every fan out there who continue to love him. His career proves that even though trials may try to hinder aspirants from achieving greatness, they should strive to overcome them like Kobe who made own name in the league.
No matter how good or bad you play on a basketball court, do not let challenges bother you. Strive to improve and help your team to win. As Kobe Bryant said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handling a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.” Indeed, don’t be afraid to fail, because if you shrink in fear, you will definitely fail. Even if the Mamba is out, his lessons and contributions to the game of basketball still remain. Make these your inspiration, turn around and say, “KOBE!”