I hated Kobe Bryant. There was not a single fiber of my being that would ever allow for me to root for him growing up. It had nothing to do with the type of person he was and entirely to do with what he could do on a basketball court.
No matter who I rooted for, Kobe Bryant was there to stop them. The Spurs, the Rockets, the Blazers, it did not matter. That man would find a way to beat them. And he didn’t just beat them, he dominated them. Kobe was the closest one person could come to being the Yankees. You either rooted for them, or you despise them with every part of your soul.
Kobe played a style of basketball that I had always been taught was selfish, and ineffective. Yet when I watched him scorch all of my favorite players he did it in exactly that way. He took a lot of shots, a lot of contested shots and shots that were off balance and awkward. But again, it did not matter.
It irked me. How can this man who does everything I was told is wrong be so successful at the highest level there is. It would be one thing if I could say ‘oh well that just gave him individual success’. but no, the way he played earned him five NBA titles.
It took me years to grow out of my pure disdain for Kobe. While I learned to respect what he accomplished and his incredible talent I could never shake the feeling of what he did to me as a kid.
That’s why I couldn’t understand how I felt after he died. I was drained. I felt numbness and sorrow that I never thought would be there. I knew I should feel sad, but it was something I didn’t comprehend until I talked to my mom about what had happened.
My mom hates the NBA. While she loves basketball and it has been a part of her life since she and my dad have been together, she will never get over her hatred for the NBA. I asked her if she had seen the news and she said yes. I told her how I felt so weird about it. Her response finally brought me clarity. It had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant the basketball player and everything to do with Kobe Bryant the person.
“He seemed like he was finally in a happy phase of his life.”
Kobe was the ultimate competitor on the floor. This, like Michael Jordan, is what made him so great. He didn’t care if it was shots made in practice or who got on the plane faster, he wanted to win everything. But this was not what made Kobe happiest.
Kobe Bryant was a giver. He wanted to give all the help, knowledge and love to those who needed it. Kobe was someone who wanted you to find your best self and he was willing to help you along the way.
The first act of Kobe’s life was about his chase for greatness and his determination to win. His second act was about selfless acts of love, teaching and mentorship.
His work with players after retirement, his constant involvement in women’s basketball, and his devotion to being an incredible father to his kids. All are examples of who Kobe Bryant truly was. Not just the most competitive guy in the room but also the one most ready to give himself fully to someone else.
Kobe didn’t use his influence to become more rich famous or powerful, he used his influence to teach, help and mentor. Whether it be helping coach his daughters team, taking Sabrina Ionescu and other women’s basketball players under his wing or highlighting issues that plagued women’s soccer, he acted out of a desire to help and bring joy to others.
While I may always hate Kobe Bryant the basketball player, Kobe Bryant the person is someone who has forever influenced my life. His dedication to serving others who would benefit from his knowledge and experience is more admirable than anything he could have done with a basketball. I also hope if I become a father, that I can match the intensity he loved his kids with.
Rest in peace, Kobe, and thank you for all you did.