Starting my time as a sports writer for a Boston-centric website with an article about Kobe Bryant is probably a bit odd. However, the fact that the NBA legend passed away yesterday in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, now THAT is absolutely surreal. Losing anyone is difficult but this tragedy really struck a chord with so many fans across not just Los Angeles or the NBA, but across sports and culture. I can't help but reflect on what Kobe meant to so many of us, including myself.
Growing up as a basketball fan in Boston means you learn to hate the Lakers. The purple and gold clashes with the green and white of the Celtics while the lifestyle and feel of each city could not be more different. As a child of the 90's, some of my first basketball memories are of Kobe and the Lakers dominating the league. Eventually, the Celtics regained their footing with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce and they would renew the rivalry in two classic Finals battles. Somehow, someway, I could never shake that I liked Kobe.
It wasn't that I was rooting for him, because I certainly would have liked to see that 2010 series go the other way, but I respected him immensely and I think most Celtics fans did too. His work ethic and drive just set him apart and the fans in Boston are too intelligent and love basketball too much to not see the value in that. For a guy that has all the talent in the world to still want to outwork everyone and actually overachieve when he could have probably coasted to success, that means something.
As Celtics fans, we'll have to remember him as a villain in between the lines. He was the superstar that came into your building and loved taking the wind out of your sails. Whether he was dropping 40 on your best defender or scratching, clawing and willing his team to an overtime win, he was going to get the best of you.
Yesterday as all of the details unfolded and more and more people were memorializing him, it became clear that his on-court achievements weren't the story. Kobe was more than a basketball player. He was more than this generation's version of Michael Jordan. He was just the ultimate competitor. The stories that kept floating around, both new and old, were awesome. The quotes that people kept referencing were enough to make you want to run through a brick wall. Kobe was an intelligent guy who wanted to be successful in every aspect of life, with no excuses or exceptions.
Kobe Bean Bryant was and is an icon. He was a great father, a great inspiration, a great competitor and he is gone too soon. Let his passing serve as a reminder to never waste a day of your life and always continue to push forward.
Thank You, Mamba.