Whether you love or hate the Lakers, you have to respect Kobe Bryant and the legacy he's left behind. I am still in shock, like everyone, of the events that transpired yesterday. It was amazing to see teams, celebrities, and everyone honoring him. It honestly sucks how it takes something like that to put everything in perspective for us.
As someone who grew up playing basketball, Kobe was among a handful of players I followed very closely and dreamt of one day being a tenth as good as. Granted, I wasn't crazy good at basketball - that didn't matter. I was a kid. I first saw Kobe when he was in the school dunk contest in 1996 but didn't really know more about him til the dunk contest in Cleveland in 1997. I immediately became a fan. I grew up shooting fadeaways in the driveway while yelling "Kobe" at the top of my lungs - likely missing and saying I was fouled on the play (by the air) and would get free throws to still win the game.
Fast forward almost 15 years later to 2015 on Valentine's Day. I was in the WHAC in Columbus playing basketball with some of my former roommates and closest friends, one of whom happened to play football at Ohio State. I shot a 3 pointer - SWISH. Upon landing after the shot, everything went black and I felt a tingling sensation run up my leg - it felt like someone had teed off on the back of my heel. I stood up thinking it was random. The ball was checked in and no one was guarding me - nailed another 3. Down I went again. It felt like I had cement blocks on my foot and had the cold sweats. I hobbled off the court and later learned I tore my Achilles. The year before, my father was diagnosed with cancer and lost the ability to walk. To me, nothing seemed to be going right (there were other things too but I won't bore you with it - I even tore my other Achilles a couple of years later). I felt I couldn't get a break. I remember feeling bad for myself and having such a negative mindset. I remember thinking about an icon who faced a similar injury and realizing stuff happens in life and it's about how you react. It's okay to sulk and be sad but always bounce back. Minor setback for a major comeback.
That icon...was Kobe Bryant.
One of my favorite (recent) memories of Kobe was seeing him bounce back from his Achilles injury. He tore it during the game vs the Warriors. He sucked it up, stayed on the court, and made clutch free throws before leaving the game. For me, after I got over feeling sorry for myself, remembering how he was in that moment and the months that followed, inspired me. I did my best to channel my inner Mamba and having seen Kobe go through it and not lose hope was encouraging to me. He was determined to get on the court and progress with his life ASAP. I never met him, but that doesn't matter - he still had a major impact on my life beyond my youth.
His passing reminded me, and hopefully, all of you, to appreciate every moment in life. Life's so short and so fragile. Don't let small things manifest and ruin your day. Stay in touch with people, encourage them, and appreciate them. Most importantly, tell those you care about how much they mean to you before it is too late. The 11W community has become a part of my daily routine - I probably check it more than I check social media - and I will probably never meet 99% of you - but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate everyone on here. I do (trolls aside).
In light of the news yesterday, I think it would be cool to honor and celebrate the life and memories of a man who transcended the game of basketball. What are your favorite Kobe moments?
Also, probably won't happen, but I think it would be cool to see the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl, be kneed at the 24-yard line instead of a touchback (if it would be a touchback even) - pushing it, I know. Only a one-yard difference.