In 2013 the Lakers made the playoffs as the 8th seed, because Kobe Bryant Carried them there. At age 35, the NBA had seen nothing like that. The "Kobe Haters" will point out the last two injury plagued years, and call him a ball-hog because they're idiots. Yes, I firmly believe "Kobe haters" are idiots. Kobe's insane work ethic and drive was talked about before there was a social media for him to broadcast it. Many of the 2008 NBA players who surrounded him on the Olympic team credit with him their indivual games going to a higher level. Oh yeah, Kobe also ended am embarrassing Gold Medal drought for the United States that year. Steve Nash has two MVP trophies that should belong to Kobe, as well, but none of that matters to Kobe. The only thing that mattered to Kobe Bryant was winning championships. He once said "I feel like this was a wasted year of my life" because the Lakers didn't win a title.
I remember when I was 9 years old, pretending to be Kobe Bryant at what used to be Lynwood High School. I was playing with a baseball, not a basketball because that was all I had. But, I wanted to be Kobe. Bryant was such a transcendent star, you wanted to be able to play the game like him. I don't even like playing basketball, but 9 year old me didn't know that would be the case, 9 year old me thought he could be Kobe Bryant. Being from Los Angeles, you grow up a Lakers fan, it's just a part of your life. I know there are many Lakers fans from all over the country, but unless you watched Bald headed rookie Kobe Bryant on KCAL9, you don't know what it really means to be a Lakers fan. You don't know what it means to be a Kobe fan.
Remember those air balls against Utah when Kobe was a rookie? I do. I remember expecting him to make every shot. It hurt me then to see my hero struggle. But I believe, because Kobe told us so, it made him better. Remember the beginning of the 2000 Season, when Kobe played with a glove on his hand because he broke part of it during the preseason. Kobe made no excuses, and played through injury. I remember him emphatically dunking over the Spurs Mario Ellie, with the glove hand. That was him announcing to the NBA; "I AM HERE, THE LAKERS ARE HERE.." The Lakers would finish that year 67-15 and win the NBA finals. Many people wanted to credit Shaq, but I knew Kobe was the driving force, and wasn't afraid to tell you.
When I was in 8th grade, one my friends tried to tell me Vince Carter was better than Kobe Bryant. This was the year after Vince Cater made everyone say "wow" with his Dunk contest performance. I wasn't in awe, I watched Kobe do that as a rookie in 1997. (Again, if you weren't there to watch Bald headed Kobe Bryant, you don't truly understand what it means to be a Kobe fan.) One day, after looking up all of the stats for Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant, I pointed out to this kid why Kobe was better, with the numbers to back it up. His response "the Kobe's look like a spaceship" in reference to Kobe Bryant's signature shoe. Kobe Bryant cares about Championships, I as a Kobe fan care about him winning Championships, not his shoes.
I'm not quite sure what I will remember most about Kobe's career. Maybe it will be when I decided I didn't need to be someone's friend because they didn't like Kobe. Maybe it will be beating the Celtics in game 7 of the NBA finals in 2010. Maybe it will be making two free throws (to win the game) after he tore his Achilles in 2013. Maybe it will be the 12 straight 40 point games in 2003 while Shaq was out with injury. (The team would have missed the playoffs without this streak) Maybe the Dunk over Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, the list goes on. Maybe it is a mix of all of them. We watched him become an Adult. We thought his new Marriage was a distraction during the NBA playoffs. We hoped he'd change his mind when he asked for a trade (thankfully he did). We told ourselves he was coming back as strong as ever, and still think he can lead us to a championship right now. What I do know for sure is this; when Kobe retires we will never see another Kobe Bryant. Thanks for reading.