It’s 4:30am. I’m sorry for the late start to my morning. The last thing I’d ever want to do is disappoint the person who has inspired me since I was 5. Being a kid watching you was like watching Superman in the flesh, well maybe Batman, you always liked the debate over whether you were a hero or really just a villain. Either way you always motivated me to be my best. It was actually an interview you did when I was about 9 that set me on the career journey I’m on now.
You had just hit another game winning shot, this time it was the playoffs. The reporter asked you how you remained so cool under pressure and with the most Kobe smirk you replied that you “lived for it”. You continued, the moments when the game came down to you, were the moments that you enjoyed the most. I never forget that interview. I still replay it over whenever I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me, I tell myself to live for the moment. I didn’t understand how there could be people who ran and feared those moments and then there was you, who not only welcomed them but thrived through them. I wanted to be like you, so I studied you. I’ve seen pretty much every interview and watched almost every game, fascinated by your mind and determined to get it right. Even when playing ended for me, my motivation to help others form your mentality continued. I got into sport psychology because of you and not one day has that motivation changed.
For me, I think that’s one of the hardest parts of knowing you’re not here anymore. You helped me find my purpose in this world and I never got to thank you. I’ve rehearsed what I would say and how I would say it over a thousand times. Being able to thank you has fueled so many lethargic days. I knew to even be in the same room as you, to have the opportunity to show my appreciation, I had to master my craft. I had to be great. I couldn’t stop working. Now that you are gone, I will continue to work hard to carry on the legacy of mental toughness you instilled in all of us. You taught us to not give up, and I won’t.
For all of us it’s been a hard few weeks, I never imagined the heartbreak the world would experience. I remember in one of my grad school classes reading “sports are the opioids of our society” and if nothing else, these past few weeks have proved that. For over 20 years you poured your soul into your craft and in return you entertained us all, distracted us from all our problems and mesmerized us with your moves and your mindset. We either became addicted to the love of watching you play or obsessed with hating every time you touched the ball; but one thing was for sure that we respected your commitment to greatness and wished every athlete had the same mentality as you. We lived for the moments you’d start biting your jersey because we all knew it was over. To us you were magic, that’s why everyone has been at a loss of words, there are no words to describe you. You were limitless and seemed invincible. The world mourned because you impacted us, at some point you gave us all a “high” we’d never forget. Who else has scored over 60 in every arena in the league, 81 points in one game, 5 rings, an Oscar, and a bestselling book series? No one.
No one who was lucky enough to actually know you mentioned any of those big moments since you’ve been gone though. To the people who knew you it wasn’t the big moments that made you great, it was all the little ones. It was the moments that you probably never thought much about that made you seem like magic to them. The moments when you were just being Kobe. It was the interviews, being a girl dad, meeting fans and even trash talking. If there is any lesson in all of this, it is to always be great in those little moments. It is to show up in the little moments because you never know whose life you’ve touched or who you are inspiring. The real magic was that you showed up everyday and understood that the little moments were what mattered. It was the practicing fundamentals at 4 am even after 17 all-star appearances. It was understanding the basics were what you made you great. We must all still focus on the basics. We can all do better at rising to the occasion in the small moments, because you’ve shown that it’s those moments that really define who we are, those are the moments that really matter. We can’t be great without the small moments.
We will never forget you Kobe Bean Bryant. Every time we shoot a piece of paper into the trash. Every time we get a little extra time with our families. Every time we walk into work. Every time those little moments are presented to us. We promise to be our greatest. We promise to learn every aspect of our respected game. We promise to continue to practice the fundamentals until we can’t get them wrong, and then keep practicing them. We promise to rise to the occasion and welcome the pressure. We promise to never stop learning, to never stop pushing ourselves and to never settle. You taught us when we work hard and commit ourselves, we can accomplish more than we ever dreamed… and that’s the real mamba mentality.
Thank you Kobe