It’s been six days since we first learned that Kobe was killed in a tragic helicopter accident. When I first heard it I didn’t believe it because the internet is known for fake death reports. I was also in denial I’ve seen this man overcome everything, it’s no way he could be gone this way. But more reports started to come in and I had to accept the fact that it was true. It felt like a close family member died, I couldn’t believe that someone I looked up to was gone so soon. I remember his last Instagram post, he was congratulating Lebron on passing him on the all-time scoring list. That’s the type of man he was even though he was fierce competitor he loved and respected the next generation of NBA players. His relationship with his family made me admire him even more. That’s been a goal of mine to have the beautiful family and a stable home life, Kobe seemed to enjoyed his family life more than being on the court. I remember him always having his daughters by his side during his NBA Finals press conferences. Kobe beat the odds he was the opposite of what the media portrays the black man to be. He didn’t stop there he even expanded his brand and won an Oscar. Athletes typically don’t do that but Kobe was anything but typical. He never limited himself to just being a basketball player, he always seemed to have a plan after basketball. From the ages of 18 to 41 we had the privilege to witness his complete transformation. It made me believe that life after football would be more rewarding than my playing days. He showed me that being a family man can be fun, that stability is best in this game we call life. I’m hurting for his family because there is no way to get over this, time will help but it can never heal. It’s unfortunate that they have to try to live a normal life without their constant.
I’ve talked about Kobe the man but I want to talk about how Kobe the athlete made me a better player. Every athlete wants to win but players like him want to destroy you. Kobe could do every thing on the court and not only could he do it he was great at it. He was one the few guys that I think could’ve won a dunk contest and a 3 pt contest if he wanted to. He took pride in his defense just as much as his scoring on offense. I can remember Kobe wanting to guard the other team’s best scorer not because he was asked to but he enjoyed that challenge. Kobe would score 40 on you and then hold you to 20 on the defensive end. I respect athletes that are versatile because it’s easy to be good at one position or one skill set. But there are times when your team needs you to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone, you have to get the job done no excuses. Kobe could’ve been the best point guard or small forward if he wanted to he was just that good. You always heard stories of him warming up for hours before the game and he would still go out and play 46 minutes. His work ethic made me realize that if I wanted to be even be good I had to outwork my competition. You can get by on natural ability but after high school the reality is everyone is big,strong, and fast. I would run sprints in 90 degree heat wearing a hoody on because I wanted to be fresh in the 4th quarter like Kobe was. I can never remember seeing Kobe tired in a game which is crazy when you think about how much running and jumping they do on a basketball court. My motto was if Kobe is still outworking his competition than I should be out there doing the same. Money and accolades didn’t motivate Kobe it was his love for winning and his love for the game that pushed him to an all-time great level. You don’t play hurt unless you really love the game. In an era where guys sit out for some of the softest injuries, Kobe seemingly played hurt all the time but never mentioned it. The man came back into the game to make two free throws on a torn achilles, that type of mental toughness is what separated Kobe. Last season I tore my pectoral in our last regular season game that was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life but I decided to keep playing because of guys like Kobe. I could’ve sat out but the mindset is win or die unless my arm fell off I was going to finish the season. I’ve played with some bad injuries but my mindset was if an all-time great can play through the pain then why can’t you. The mamba mentality is to give everything you have even if it means playing when you’re not 100%. He instilled that in all of us, he was one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation. It’s up to us to educate the younger athletes on who Kobe was and what he meant to the game of basketball. If energy never dies then Kobe is still with us, I can hear his voice whenever I’m tired during a workout and it forces me to keep going. I’m dedicating my next season to him which means I can’t come back to the states without a Championship.