IT is June 18 in the Philippines, the day of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
As a player in gold wearing the number 24 dribbles the ball out, milking out any ounce of time seperating the Lakers from its 16th title, my eight-year-old self cannot help but shed tears, as my Celtics blew a 3-2 series lead and a 13-point lead in Game 7, in heartbreaking fashion.
But having matured both as an individual and as a basketball fan, I have learned to appreciate greatness in the moment. And true enough, Kobe Bryant, the “Black Mamba,” has given me moments that I, as a basketball fan, will never forget.
I saw him go mano-á-mano against LeBron James.
I saw him score three consecutive difficult three-pointers against Toronto to lead a comeback win in OT.
And the most memorable, I arrived home from varsity practice just in time to witness him drain his 59th and 60th points at the free-throw line, in what would be his final game.
Kobe will be remembered by basketball fans for a variety of reasons. His will forever be the name we yell out—whether we are taking tightly-defended shots on the court, or casually heaving paper balls into trash cans. But among all, he will collectively be remembered as the greatest scorer of all time, as well as one of the most fearless competitors to ever play the game of basketball.
As a scorer, you simply cannot guard him. His NBA peers will tell you that. He had a surplus of moves: acrobatic layups, posterizing dunks, double-pump three-pointers, and his signature Jordan-esque fade-aways. As a result, all these placed him firmly at 4th place in all-time scoring.
And then you go to his competitive spirit— one that was absolutely feared by any opposing player he’d face. A game clip went viral in 2010, where then-Orlando Magic forward Matt Barnes was closely guarded by Kobe on an inbounds pass, with literally a foot seperating the two. He faked a throw directly at Kobe’s face, and the five-time champion DID NOT FLINCH. Not a single bit.
This little occasion was a testament to how fearless he was—nothing fazed him. No lead was ever too big; no opponent too strong; no situation too insurmountable.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers described this spirit perfectly: “He had a DNA that very few athletes can ever have.”
Thank you, Kobe, for showing us the way.
Thank you for introducing us to an influx of moves that the game has never seen.
Thank you for proving to us that it is hard work, indeed, that will lead us to the mountain top.
And thank you, Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant, for bestowing upon us the Mamba Mentality.