Photo by Arthur Puu // Spark Sports Editor
To Kobe Bean Bryant,
Thank you, for giving me days and nights to look forward to. From all those days and nights where I sat on the couch, eyes glued to the television set, I watched with such excitement, amazement, and wonder at the craft you dedicated your whole life to. From the 61 point game against the New York Knicks at the Garden to the buzzer beating three pointer against the Miami Heat, you demonstrated some of the best showmanship I have ever seen.
Thank you, for making the fadeaway such a signature move. You took it from Michael, but you expanded it, adding finesse movements and fancy footwork. You perfected the shot by breaking it down to its core. You got buckets like it was nothing (over 11,700 to be exact); it didn’t matter if there was a hand in your face, you sank that shot with swagger.
Thank you, for inspiring a generation. You were our childhood hero. You made me dream big to become the best sportscaster and journalist there is. You left your mark on the game of basketball, both on and off the court. Every time I toss a piece of crumpled paper into a trash bin, it becomes the best show in the world, with my arm lifted high above my head with my wrist bent in the follow through, yelling “KOBE!”
Thank you, for showing us never to back down to anything. You put in countless hours to perfect your game before gracing the battlefield, showing us the growth and maturity that you showed going from a brash 18 year old kid fresh out of high school to a 37 year old veteran who continued to learn. You always welcomed any challenge with open arms. No one could stop you. Not Michael, not Shaq, not the countless “Kobe Stoppers,” not the Boston Celtics, not LeBron, nobody, obstacle or challenge could. As your heroes became your teachers and the teachers became your peers, the legends eventually made you one of them.
Thank you, for getting me hooked to the game of basketball. As young guys played checkers, you were out there playing chess. You showed us the passion and love that you had for the game and the game loved you back. You had the classic scowl, the look that beamed “I saved the day.” You squeezed every little bit of energy from your body and showed us you never can be counted out of anything. Because of your passion, I love and admire you.
Thank you, for getting me lost in your story. There were times of happiness, sadness, fear, and anger, but what made me so lost in it was the uncertainty. You could go for a triple-double one game to a 40 point game the next. It made your story legendary, so much so that you were a god. The game winner against the Phoenix Suns, the baptisms of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the alley-oop to Shaq; so many iconic moments made your story great. Even the injuries you suffered through pushed you forward. From a broken finger, playing with worn out knees, and the torn tendon that even a Greek god needed intact, you pushed further and further towards the one goal you’ve always had: to win.
Thank you, for bringing your #MambaMentality to everything you did. Whether it be a charity game or a simple game of pickup basketball, you took every game like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. You let us see your unmatched competitive drive that willed the Lakers and Team USA to the ultimate prize for so many years. You taught us what it takes to become a true warrior.
Thank you, for making me believe. You made me believe that scoring 81 points is possible in real life and not something you can only do in a video game. You made me believe that scoring 40+ points was as easy as a snap of the fingers not just for a few games, but for weeks and months. You made me believe in fairy tale endings and championship parades down Figueroa.
Thank you, for showing us the beauty of the game. You brought us to the Promised Land five times within a decade. You showed us that despite the dark days, there is always the light at the end of the tunnel. You showed us you were a human who could be frustrated at times, disappointing people in the process, and having flaws that I could relate to, but despite all that, you always strived to be the best.
Thank you, for 20 marvelous seasons, 18 All-Star selections, 5 championships, 33,000 points, and countless memories.
Thank you for a final outburst for 60 points in a comeback victory against the Utah Jazz. This one will forever be my favorite chapter, a storybook ending to the legend of the Black Mamba.
Kobe Bean Bryant, take a bow.
You will always be remembered as a champion, a role model, a pioneer, a Hall of Famer, a legend, but most importantly, a Laker.
Love you forever and always,
Spark Sports Editor
Follow Arthur Puu on Twitter @arthurpuu