Kobe Bryant: A Personal Tribute

It is hard for me to write this article without shedding a tear. The news of Kobe Bryant’s death personally affected me. I was having a great Sunday evening with my friends, celebrating the Chinese New Year. As I was heading back home, CNN broke the horrible news. My childhood hero, Kobe Bryant, had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. This was a direct gut punch to my childhood.

As both a recreational pilot and a basketball fan, I was deeply saddened by both the crash itself and  the loss of Kobe Bryant and the other eight people onboard. When news broke that Kobe’s daughter Gianna was also onboard, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore.

Kobe Bryant was more than just a basketball player. He was the embodiment of hard work, and his talents on the court provided many people with entertainment. His on-the court endeavors gave people the uplifting they needed during tough times. I adopted the “Mamba Mentality” — Kobe’s well-known work ethic for outworking everybody. I find that having his desire, drive and ability to remain motivated and focused to be very difficult. That’s why I respected Kobe Bryant as an athlete, and then later in his life as a father to his four daughters. Kobe was not a perfect man, but he learned from his mistakes.

My fandom with Kobe Bryant began when I started watching basketball in elementary school. Back then, the Lakers were coming off a tough Finals loss to the Boston Celtics in 2008. That Finals included a game (which I could not remember), where the Lakers got absolutely blown out. Kobe did not falter, did not back down, and he came back in 2009 with the strong determination to win the title for the Lakers. He was often criticized for not being able to win a championship without Shaquille O’Neal. Assisted by Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and his trust-worthy backcourt partner Derek Fisher, and under the guidance of Phil Jackson, he led the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2009 and 2010. I watched Kobe Bryant win the title for Los Angeles in 2009 and 2010. I jumped with euphoria when he hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in June 2010. For Los Angeles, the 2010 title was very special, as we beat the Boston Celtics in seven games and won in our home court.

The next few years in both my life and Kobe’s career were not easy. I had difficult moments in my life and in school, but I always looked up to Kobe, and he provided me with the inspiration to keep on going. This was best shown by the Lakers’ 2013 season. I was facing my school finals, and Kobe was tasked with somehow leading a disorganized Lakers team. Then in February 2013, the great owner of the Lakers, Jerry Buss passed away, bringing further shock to the team. The Lakers rallied around Kobe, and Kobe scored what were outrageous numbers for a 34-year old shooting guard. In the process, he injured himself, tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. I, meanwhile, managed to pass my school finals and I entered my preferred high school.

I watched Kobe’s last game for the Lakers in April 2016, against the Utah Jazz. He started slowly, but he managed to score 60 points in his last game. That inner child inside of me jumped with euphoria. For a moment, I felt like I was ten again. I shed a tear inside when he said the words “Mamba out.” I went to Los Angeles in 2018 and visited the house that Kobe built. I was grinning with joy. Thanks to the “Mamba Mentality,” I passed exams, assignments, and everything that university life can throw at a young student. He was my greatest inspiration and hero.

Thus, his death shocked me. My friends know me as a stoic person who does not normally show emotion. When Kobe’s death was announced, it was the first time they saw me shed a tear or cry. The words of President Obama, that Kobe was just “beginning his second act of life,” impacted me. He will never have the chance to see Gianna be a WNBA star, never have a chance to deliver his Hall of Fame speech, never have a chance to see the Lakers win another title. But most importantly, Kobe Bryant will never see his other surviving daughters grow. Writing this sentence is enough to send me to tears.

My heart goes out to Vanessa Bryant, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, and also to the families of Coach Altobelli, the Chester & Mauser families, and to the family of the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

Kobe, thanks for the memories you gave us. For introducing me to the Mamba Mentality. You will always be my inspiration. Your memories will live among us.

 #MambaForever.

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