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What Kobe meant to me

staff note

On Jan. 26, NBA legend and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash. When news of his death first broke from TMZ, I thought it couldn’t be true. No way could such an iconic basketball legend be taken away from this world so quickly. I could still vividly remember watching him drop 60 points in his last game against the Utah Jazz in arguably the greatest farewell performance of all time, just like it was yesterday. But as the flood of news reports started to come in, I slowly came to accept that it was true — that Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, had died. Overwhelmed with sadness and shock, I broke down and cried.

As a kid, I absolutely loved the NBA. The league had the biggest and brightest basketball stars in the world, and being the six-year-old dreamer I was, I wanted to be just like them — especially Kobe Bryant. Every time I watched the Lakers take the court, number 24 absolutely dominated, terrorizing opponents and imposing his sheer will on the game. Whether he was hitting his patented fadeaway jumper over three defenders or locking down the opposing team’s best player for the entire game, it was clear to me that Kobe was the best player on the court. And because of his sheer dominance, I grew to idolize Kobe, wanting to mimic him in every way. From his silky-smooth footwork, to his famous jersey bite and, of course, taking heavily contested fadeaway jump shots (and yes, I 100% yelled “Kobe” while doing so), in everything I did, I tried to be like Kobe. 

Looking at myself now, obviously I’m not anywhere close to the basketball player Kobe was. I never developed an unguardable fadeaway jump shot. I never developed impeccable footwork. And my defense is suspect at best. But, despite not really obtaining anything from Kobe’s basketball skills, I arguably obtained something far more valuable from him: his attitude. 

Beyond his amazing play on the court, the one thing that set Kobe apart from all of his peers was his unbelievable work ethic. Known for spending nights in the film room, early mornings in the gym and offseasons on the court, Kobe always believed in working hard, pouring everything you have into your craft and leaving yourself with no room for regret. It’s this mindset that I carried over into my life. Throughout elementary, middle and high school, I gave it my all in every endeavors. Whether it was work, school or volunteering, in every avenue I tried to emulate Kobe’s attitude of working hard and trying your absolute best. It was this attitude that allowed me to accomplish things in life I didn’t think I was capable of accomplishing. It was this attitude that pushed me not to give up easily and to fight through difficult times. And most importantly, it was this attitude that encouraged me to live life to its fullest. 

Kobe’s attitude still fuels me to this day. In everything I do, I promise myself to work hard, give it my best effort and have no regrets. While these things alone don’t guarantee any level of success, what they do guarantee is a life lived to its fullest potential. No, I won’t be the smartest student, nor will I be the most successful person. But at the end of the day, I can always confidently say I worked hard and gave it my all. In life, really, that’s all you can ask of yourself.

Even though I never knew Kobe beyond the TV screen, his death still meant a lot to me. He was an enormous part of my life and a guiding figure for my growth and development. I am still numb that Kobe is gone, and maybe I will never stop being numb. But one thing’s for sure: He will not be forgotten. His legacy will live on through me and millions of other people that he had impacted. Even though the Black Mamba isn’t physically with us anymore, his spirit and work ethic still are, and quite honestly, always will be.

Derek Chen is a Trinity first-year and Recess staff writer. 

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