Dear Kobe Bean Bryant
When I heard of your tragic accident, words failed me, even sleep was hard to stitch together as I kept waking up hoping it was all a horrible dream, but every time I woke up and saw that I was still wearing your jersey, I realised that the worst was indeed true.
However, regardless of the circumstances Kobe, you deserve to be celebrated and not mourned, and I for one will continue to do that.
Firstly, I would like to say Thank You. Thank you for being an inspiration to an entire generation of basketball players and fans. What you did in 20 years will continue to resonate for many generations.
Thank You for your tireless work ethic and for helping us understand that hard work, focus and determination were the keys to any success.
Finding out that you would go to the gym at 4am and work on your craft but also have the drive to make it for practice later and still perform, gave us, your fans, a different perspective of what real hard work was.
Your meticulous approach to life, relentless pursuit of greatness and your continual attention to Detail resonates far beyond the outer lines on the hard wood, in fact way beyond the outer limits of the arena.
On a personal level, the game of basketball helped me stay away from bad habits. I could have frequented the "Black Gate" on the way to my high school like some of the “cool kids” did, but I chose the basketball court instead because of watching role models like you.
Fast forward to 1996 and I saw a young boy from Philadelphia come into the NBA and he looked fearless, and his competitiveness was turned all the way up. I realised then that I would always be a fan of yours … And thank goodness the Charlotte Hornets traded you to my favourite team.
In 2002, I travelled to Korea and I remember using some of my travel allowance to buy my first authentic Kobe jersey. I still have that number 8 to this day. When I felt like I was losing a lot of love for the game and the NBA, you helped bring that love back.
Little did I know that many years later, I would be one of the editors on nba.com’s Africa edition and would still be preaching the gospel according to Kobe. A young boy who learned how to dribble on the dusty courts of Lusaka, Zambia got to watch you win your five championships, two Olympic gold medals and an MVP (on television), and finally got to interact with you during press conferences and media calls.
After all these years, it is partly because of you that the game still impacts me positively.
Your work ethic is not for the faint hearted and neither is your Mamba Mentality. I guess that is why you said you could not relate to lazy people. You definitely spoke a different language to them.
I had hoped one day to sit across a table from you and find out what was going through your mind when you went off for 81 points against the Toronto Raptors: when you scored 62 points in three quarters and outscored the entire Dallas Mavericks: when you decided to say goodbye to the league with a 60-point game; or how deep you had to dig in order to make free throws even after suffering an Achilles injury.
I guess it will have to be some other place and some other time.
As a sneaker head, I obviously can’t have a decent collection without a number of Kobe kicks in my arsenal. I have plenty and will probably get some more now.
Dear number 8,
You are one of the best NBA players to ever come straight out of high school and go to the league. You were young gifted and driven, and a competitor like no other.
You went into the NBA a boy amongst men, and naturally early into your career you actually became “the man” amongst men.
You stayed strong through the drama, on and off the court, and kept standing where others might have fallen. Thanks for being relentless no matter the circumstances.
Dear number 24,
Kobe, it goes without saying that you were more than a basketball player, more than a Laker, more than an athlete – you were an outstanding human being with unique DNA.
Thank you for leaving us the Oscar winning “Dear Basketball" – My kids and I love it.
As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, thanks for the 20 years, five championships, two Olympic gold medals, scoring titles, the MVP, the 18 All-Star appearances and the Slam Dunk championship – you deserved them all and more.
Your death is not only a monumental loss to the basketball community, but to the entire global sporting community. Your legacy is bigger than basketball, just look at all the people you have impacted.
Kobe Bean Bryant - Go With God!