Kobe Bryant. They all say, “good things must come to an end.”
In a state of euphoria, you never think about when that feeling will go away. When things finally fall into place and you’re genuinely happy, there never comes a moment when you imagine things ever changing.
However, after 20 seasons, Lakers fans have to face the harsh reality of their hero never returning home.
Growing up in Connecticut, there wasn’t much room for Lakers fans, as everyone around me had on a Boston Celtics jersey, and man, do I really hate the leprechaun.
But at the age of six, the first memory I had of basketball was watching those 2000 Lakers win the championship. More importantly, I was in awe by the guard out of high school rocking the mini-afro. Of course I loved seeing Shaquille O’Neal dominate on both ends of the court, but I just couldn’t relate to him.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, was different. Clearly I didn’t end up being a world class athlete or elite basketball player, but I wanted to be exactly like Kobe.
And that’s when my admiration for him started, in an apartment building in New Haven when my mom still had to dress me in the morning. At that age, my days were structured in one way. I’d nap during school, come back home to watch some Rugrats, and then pray I could stay up to see Kobe play.
Fast-forward to me being 22 years old and nothing much has changed. I still take naps, even though my professors hate it, I go back to my apartment to binge watch House of Cards and I stay up watching the Lakers play.
Kobe Bryant was my childhood.
When I look back at everything that has happened as I approach my college graduation, there is no question Kobe has had a profound impact on me. You must be thinking, it is really weird how some athlete who has no idea that I exist could have influenced me this much.
But with Kobe, it was different. I was literally obsessed with this guy and people probably thought there was something wrong with me. Heck, in the fifth grade when all the other boys and girls wore their nice clothes for picture day, I wore a gold no. 8 “Bryant” jersey, which I still have to this day.
As children, we idolize these athletes because of the incredible things they do on the basketball court. They jump through the roof, hustle for 48 minutes and do things we can only dream of. In a sense, they are like our superheroes, those that just seem to have something extra in them.
Being a young kid, you get amazed and inspired by all the things they can do. However, as you get older, your imagination dwindles and the players become ordinary people who just work hard. But as a kid, you feel as though these men literally have super powers.
Will there be someone that wins five championships and garners countless of other accolades? Most likely. Still, there is no way any of us who watched Kobe as children idolize someone the same way we did him. I love seeing D’Angelo Russell play, but I’m pretty certain I won’t be going around an office wearing his jersey.
That’s why Kobe Bryant’s career has honestly become a part of me. When I think about my childhood, one of the first things I remember is collecting his basketball cards and all the times I watched him on TV and tried to mimic him in my backyard.
I’ve never meet Kobe and the closest I’ve came to him was about 20 feet, but that’s okay. He has influenced me greatly despite being thousands of miles away in Los Angeles.
So Kobe, even though you will probably never read this, if you ever get bored during retirement and stumble upon this letter, I just want to say thank you.
Thank you for motivating a six-year old.
Thank you for teaching me how to be relentless in reaching my goals.
Thank you for showing me the true value of hard work.
Thank you for giving me a childhood that I will never forget.
Very soon, you will be leaving basketball for good, and as a kid who grew up watching you and the Lakers, a big piece of me will feel missing too.
Enjoy retirement, Kobe.