Whenever January 26th rolls around on the NBA calendar, everything begins to feel small. Because January 26th serves as the reminder that both the league, and the world is without one of its shining stars. Kobe Bryant passed away two years ago in a tragic accident. The pain revolving that day will never go away. However, neither will the legacy that the mamba left on the court. And neither will his legacy off the court too.
The day of Kobe’s passing is a day where life stood still. The NBA had to postpone games, and the rest of the sports world paused to commemorate Kobe. His funeral was a televised event that have moments that will live on in basketball history. Michael Jordan’s speech at Kobe’s funeral stands out in particular, and the relationship they had was special to hear about. What was apparent was the legacy that Kobe left behind. The lives he touched, the people he inspired, the doors he opened. And despite the ending being as tragic as it is, it by no means overtakes his greatness. His legacy. He will forever and always be the mamba.
Kobe and the Lakers lose to the Pistons in the finals
Growing up with the going to work Pistons was a blessing, as I was able to watch my team face greats. From LeBron in Cleveland, to Wade in South Beach, no one matched Kobe Bryant. My first finals series was my local Detroit Pistons vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe and Shaq leading the way. Kobe Bryant was coming off of three straight championships and they were heavily favored to win a fourth. Despite a controversy filled season, Kobe and Shaq found a way to lead them back.
Growing up, I was enamored by Kobe Bryant’s skill. In addition to his athleticism, he was incredibly skilled on the court. However, since he was on the opposing team and playing against my home town team, he was “the enemy”. And there was no one more fun to root against. In the 2004 finals, Kobe Bryant still put up 22 points a game despite struggling to edge out the Pistons. Detroit won the series in five games, and is considered one of the biggest finals upsets in the past 20 years.
After this series, we saw the end of the Kobe And Shaq pairing. Shaq and Kobe dominated the league in their time together, and could’ve rivaled Pippen and Jordan if they played together for longer. However, that didn’t stop the mamba from dominating the league and winning championships. In fact, Kobe went on to score 81 points in a game his first season without Shaq. And it was the ability for Bryant to take the reigns of the Lakers that allowed him to continue to dominate the NBA.
Kobe Bryant ran the western conference for years
From 2008 on, Kobe Bryant ran the Western Conference. After a few seasons of playing well individually, the Lakers made moves to contend. Pau Gasol was the second greatest big man to play by Kobe, and then there was also Lamar Odom. In addition, the Lakers traded for Meta World Peace, who is infamous in the eyes of all Pistons fans. And it was the most complete team that Kobe played with. He would play in his first finals without Shaq in 2008. And it was a finals that the Lakers would lose.
The Boston Celtics began to emerge in 2008 around the same time as the Lakers. The trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett proved to be the biggest rivals of Kobe’s career. In their first matchup, the trio in Boston proved to be too much, as the Lakers could not compete. However, after this series, Kobe Bryant brought a different level of determination. He would go on to win the next two championships.
Kobe brought the Lakers back to the finals again in both 2009 and 2010, able to win them both. He was the finals MVP in both championship seasons, averaging 27 points per game both years. At his peak, he was my generation’s Michael Jordan. The way he played the game modeled the all time greats, and it was his determination on both ends that always stuck out. Any time he took the court, whether it was the Pistons in the regular season or in the playoffs, he was always the same. He was dominant, he was fierce, he was truly the mamba.
Kobe was a titan in everything he did
From 5 NBA championships, an academy award, 2 gold medals, 17 all stars, 12 all defense selections, and an iconic clothing line, Kobe Bryant was excellent at everything he did. His award winning short “Dear Basketball” is a love letter to the game that gives me chills. My favorite game of Kobe Bryant’s will always be his final game. On his last legs, after 20 years of sweat and tears and aches, he puts up 60 points. And he hits the game winner. And he isn’t even shocked. All he does after the game is pick up the mic, thank the fans, and says “mamba out”. It is my favorite moment in the history of the game.
Many of the league’s greats today modeled their game after Kobe Bryant.
It is symbolic of the truth is that Kobe Bryant played the game of basketball like nobody else. Kobe Bryant lived life like few else. And despite his flaws, despite his short comings, Kobe is remembered and celebrated as an all time great competitor. He is an all time symbol, he is an icon to a generation. Not just for his play, but for his mentality. The mamba movement has taken on a generation, and has inspired so many athletes and people to strive for the best in their lives. If you have not seen him play, go online and fix that. He’s truly an icon that’s bigger than the game itself.