I am on the left of Kobe. Back in the summer of 2007 at the first Kobe Basketball Academy

To My Mentor,

There is great beauty in the relationship of a student and his mentor. I consider myself to be a student of Kobe Bryant’s more so than a fan. When you are the fan of an athlete, you enjoy the triumphs and feel the pain of defeat. But when you are a student, you take those same emotions and you let them fuel you in your own ventures. Triumph and defeat aren’t the only emotions a student gets to study. You learn about the process, the journey to that emotion. You obsess over the good and the bad to ultimately better yourself. Such is the story of Kobe Bryant…

Kobe Bryant achieved his immortality through his mortality. He conquered the mind and became unbreakable. You couldn’t break him because he had already done so himself. How could you beat someone who had nothing to lose? His heart made no feat unattainable. He came up to you and told you he would destroy you; you laughed at the notion and before you could counter, the execution was complete. He didn’t chase the fame or the bright lights of LA. Mr. Bryant knew the attention would be a product of his dedication to his craft. How could you beat a man that had already let go of all of his inhibitions? How could you beat a man that used his failures to create the greatest villain in NBA history? The ultimate anti-hero, the Bruce Wayne of the NBA… the Black Mamba.

Thank you Kobe, for showing us that it’s okay to make others uncomfortable with our ambition. An ambition backed by hours and hours of attention to detail. An ambition elevated by confidence attained through failure. Where everyone saw failure — you saw an opportunity for growth. You fell down and got right back up stronger than ever. Every dagger, every Black Mamba scowl powered you to success using failure as the fuel.

Thank you Kobe, for teaching us how to channel our villainous side to drive our heroic journeys. When the world was caving in and dubbing him “arrogant, obsessive, ruthless” and other attributes that were considered negative at the time — he turned them into something positive. He took everything they hated about him, everything they deemed “evil” about him and made it the reason they loved Kobe.

Watching Kobe at peace this season has brought great comfort to me. I dreaded the end but he taught me how to find solace in it. The Black Mamba has turned into a Zen Master in his own right. Often I hear him preach about the beauty in the journey. Perhaps the greatest lesson he has taught me was in this farewell season: leave no stone unturned and peace will find you. There are no regrets because you took every chance. If the goal required patience, that’s what encompassed him. If Kobe needed to be an assassin, he was the greatest assassin of all time. Good or bad, the ups and downs, hero or villain - he did it all.

I thank you Kobe for everything from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to crossing paths with you at Kobe Inc. and Kobe Studios. Perhaps even more, I look forward to having the opportunity to pay homage to you much like you did throughout your career for your heroes.

I was five years old when Kobe made his debut and for many of the 20 seasons that followed I often engaged in the MJ vs Kobe debate. This conversation is never going to end and it’s only going to grow with time. You see, the difference between the two is simple: Michael Jordan taught us how to fly, but you Mr. Bryant… taught us how to RISE.

To The Greatest of All Time,

Yours Truly,

Mansoor Syed.

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