Do you see yourself in this Kobe Bryant tribute?
It happened on a Sunday morning miles away from our shores, on the hills of Calabasas in Los Angeles. Still, many of us felt the loss of Kobe Bryant as if the accident happened within arm’s reach, as if he was waving our flag whenever his soles touched the court—but that’s exactly the kind of impact he had on millions the world over; nationality, gender and age didn’t matter. Your level of appreciation for basketball didn’t even matter.
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He was only 41 years old, and it was only four years ago that he retired from the NBA. He devoted 20 years to the LA Lakers and god knows how many hours on the court. Love or hate him, watched basketball or never paid attention, you know his name. And he deserves all the praise.
So here’s our own Kobe Bryant tribute, from admirers and haters (and self-called “non-fans”) alike:
Marco Genato, 23
No rivalry in sports can compare to the Lakers vs. Celtics, so [the 2010 NBA Game 7 Finals] win was especially sweet. I remember being in high school and, lucky for me, we had a half day so I could stay home and watch the game. I remember never giving up hope as the Celtics lead grew and grew and Kobe was smothered by tight D, but Kobe and the Lakers found a way. I remember my heart racing as the final minutes approached and the Lakers were finally able to take the lead. I remember time expiring and Kobe running down the court with an arm outstretched in triumph. I remember wanting to do the same. The pure joy and excitement could be seen on Bryant’s usually stoic face. I still go back and watch the last few minutes of that game from time to time, along with countless other moments showcasing Kobe’s greatness.
The Lakers haven’t won a title since, losing season after losing season, but that hasn’t stopped that last one from being oh-so sweet. It hasn’t stopped me from bleeding purple and gold.
Miggy Patungan, 28
Game 4 against the Suns in the 2006 Playoffs, if I remember right. He scored two buzzer beaters. One for the tie and forced overtime; second for the win. He showed how he handled pressure and how he wasn’t scared to take responsibility of winning or losing the game.
David Cubangbang, 23
I really hated Kobe way back in 2010 when he erupted during the 4th quarter of the NBA Finals and beat my team, the Boston Celtics. After that moment, I hated him so much yet I suddenly became a fan of his dedication and will to win—as people describe it, “He was born to be a winner.”
Another great Kobe moment for me would be his last game in LA, wherein he erupted for 60 points and showed everyone what “MAMBA MENTALITY” is all about.
I also adore him as a father who gave time to watch and even coach his daughter Gianna.
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Keith Daguio, 26
I’ll never forget when Kobe Bryant outscored the entire Mavs team in three quarters. Then weeks after that game, he dropped the second highest points in a game in NBA history with 81 points against the Raptors. There was also him beating the Celtics in the 2010 Finals Game 7 at Staples Center to win his final ring. And last but not the least, scoring 60 points in the retirement game that was a storybook ending to his Hall of Fame career!
Also: winning an Oscar and being a great husband and father.
Austin Torres, 28
Mamba Mentality was Kobe’s greatest gift to the world. The endless clutch shots are just a tiny thing of what he has contributed to the world. We live Mamba Mentality in our everyday life. He even showed it best in his last few days. He was a champion of women in basketball and a champion father to his daughters. Kobe will always be missed but he will never be forgotten.
Coming out of high school, I was rooting for Kobe because he was ONE OF US (Kobe was a senior while I was a junior in HS). He wanted to be the greatest to ever play. To a lot of the kids out there, he was their Michael Jordan. I despised him later on because I didn’t want him to be the next MJ.
Back in 2011, I was fortunate to have sit down with him to talk about his career. Loathing turned to respect, as it was so evident that he just wanted to be the best. Having covered him for so many years made me realize that he’s bigger than basketball. He was able to communicate what he had both on and off the court.
Yosu de Erquiaga, 33
Back in ’02, Kobe broke my heart. I was die hard Sacramento that year, but the Lakers were just too good. Up until then, Kobe to me was a great player; but that year, he made a permanent mark. He would always be on my radar.
Always the competitor, my favorite Kobe moment was the day of the Achilles injury. So many bad hits with the last one resulting in a long-term injury. Despite already hurting, Kobe still managed to walk up to the line and take two free throws. Always determined. A man of steel. “This guy just doesn’t give up,” I thought. And to me, he never did.
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I was never a fan of basketball, never followed the NBA, never cared enough to memorize stats or players’ names. But The Black Mamba extended beyond basketball, he was much more than a player that people watched on court. Dear Basketball silenced me into attention and I enjoyed collecting stories and memories for this humble Kobe Bryant tribute—it gave me a bigger picture of a man that had, for years, been the subject of debate.
The biggest thing I’ve gathered is that he was just…more. More than his two retired jersey numbers, more than his NBA Finals matchups, more than his titles. He was considered a father by more than just four, a teammate to more than just the LA Lakers. And it’s amazing how some people whom I reached out to hesitated, just because they wanted to do right by him.
Art Alexandra Lara