I was a freshman in SoCal when Kobe was a senior in high school taking friggin’ Brandy (A Grammy nominated singer and actress w/ her own tv show back then, if you don’t remember) out to his high school prom in Philly. On ESPN.
From that day I was hooked on him. He had something. I didn’t know what. Later on I learned it was called “Mamba Mentality.”
I haven’t had a moment of my adult life without him. I shed tears when he bust his Achilles because I thought that was the last time I was going to see him play.
I was wrong. He came back for 3 more years and in true Kobe fashion, he dropped 60 on the night he said “Mamba out.”
When he retired I felt like the first section of my life was over. I was moving into something else. More mature. Less self centered. My own person. But Kobe always stayed with me as one of my personal heroes.
As a writer, I felt even more of a connection with him when he won an Academy Award for “Dear Basketball.” As a music lover and nerd, I felt that strengthen when I learned John Williams, my favorite composer of all time, wrote the music for that short film. It was special that we somehow shared an appreciation of something so specific.
This was the best evidence that Kobe’s basketball life was only the beginning. He did great things outside of basketball. From his youth programs to his advocacy for the homeless. And he was going to do even more great things.
He and GiGi were going to bring the WNBA to new heights. Not for themselves, but for people like my baby girl.
He was supposed to be a staple of the NBA. Like the way Bill Russell is.
Old. Gray. Respected. Revered. Now that will never happen.
What do we do? We do what we’re already doing. We mourn for the loss. But we smile at the memories. The game winners. The quips. The championships and accolades.
You and I share memories, even if we’ve never met. That’s the power of Kobe. We all remember 81. We remember Kobe’s lob to Shaq to put away a 4th quarter comeback against Portland. The threepeat. Olympic Gold medal. We remember his domination and determination, even with less than playoff worthy teams. We remember the resurgence with Pau and Lamar. Two more championships. Going out with 60.
All of us remember that. Together. Dominate remembrance. Because even in death, that’s who Kobe is.
He lives on. Not on video. In our hearts.
So what do we do now? We remember. But we move on, strong and sure. Confident and fearless. We do the best we can with the greatest effort and dedication we can muster.
We live with Mamba Mentality. He would be disappointed in his fans if we didn’t.
That’s what Kobe Bryant means to me.