Looking back on the historic career and the impact of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.
It’s hard to write about things like this because you never feel like you can do anyone that passed away the justice that they deserved. Now we’re talking about Kobe Bryant, THE Black Mamba, on top of that?
Everything just becomes so much more emotional…
To be honest, how didn’t Kobe impact the game of basketball? Whether it was his tenacity on the court coupled with his refusal to lose or his compassion, sympathy, and generosity off the court, Bryant was more than just a player.
Opposition would circle his name on the calendar and know that they would have to bring their A-game anytime he was coming to town. He knew they were playing hard just because they were playing him, but it didn’t matter. Bryant would go on to score at least 40 points against every team in the NBA with his lowest career total being 40 points against the Detroit Pistons.
Most NBA players would be content with that as their career-high, but not Kobe. For him, that was a walk in the park.
We as fans would have the pleasure of seeing him give buckets to everyone and anyone that could get it. 61 points in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, 62 points in three quarters against a Dallas Mavericks team who only had 61 by the time Kobe hit the bench, and of course, how can we forget January 26th, 2006. The Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Toronto Raptors.
The Lakers would walk away with the 122-104 win and improve to 22-19 on the year, but Kobe gave the fans more than enough to cheer about. 81 points on 28 of 46 from the field, 7 of 13 from three, 6 rebounds, 3 steals. It was the second-most points to ever be scored in a single NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s hallmark 100 point game. If you ask me though, I say times were incredibly different now compared to what they were back in 1962 and Kobe’s feat should never be merely looked at as second place.
He set an example on the court, proving that you can do anything if you have enough of that dog in you. His battle back from injuries, his sheer reluctance to give up, and even going as far as to hit two free-throws after tearing his Achilles which would actually prove to be the difference in a 118-116 win against the Golden State Warriors, it was inspirational to not only players, but average joe’s like me sitting at home, watching.
But the most inspirational of all was his last game before retirement.
It didn’t take much to see that Kobe wasn’t the same as he once was after his Achilles injury and rightfully so. The NBA has only ever really seen Dominique Wilkins return to a pure All-Star level following such a gruesome injury. He lost a lot of what made him who he was at least from a physical perspective, but the Mamba Mentality was always there.
It was his farewell tour. He played 66 games and was 37-years-old in the 2015-16 season. Safe to say, game 66 was one to remember. He played 42 minutes, well over his season-high, and scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz in the Staples Center. It didn’t matter what the shooting numbers were, how many rebounds he had, or how much he passed the ball. Kobe had a winners mentality and it didn’t matter how he got the win, but he was going to die trying.
The Lakers won that game 101-96.
It was the most Kobe way to go out and nobody else had ever done something like that before. Not even his idol, Michael Jordan. We all know the saying, ‘I wanna be like Mike’ and for all, it’s basically impossible men to achieve.
Except for one.
Kobe Bryant was and will more than likely be the closest thing we see to Michael. His movements, mannerisms, the way he shot the ball. God, he even got upset when Jordan didn’t put him as a top-five player in the league. He was the closest thing to a carbon copy that we’ll ever see, but in a way, he was still so different.
His relations in foreign countries, his outside involvement in the NBA, the fact that he won an Oscar, or even the fact that he spoke multiple languages fluently when reporters outside of the United States interviewed him. He was a mentor, a role model, and an example.
Even though he didn’t finish with the most rings, most career points, or most MVP awards, it’ll never matter. He’s arguably the most influential pioneer the sport has ever seen and his illustrious career on and off the court will live on until the end of time.
Rest in Peace, Kobe.