20 Years of Kobe was a Fun Ride

My first memory learning of Kobe Bean Bryant was in the spring of 1996 while watching an NBA Draft preview show on Prime Sports West. I remember seeing Kobe’s highlights for the first time on that show and being in awe of his athleticism and high-flying ability. Then I became even more in awe when I realized he was coming out of a high school kid. I was hoping there would be a chance he would fall out of the Lottery to the Lakers at their pick in the 20’s, but I didn’t have much hope. But I was excited to follow Kobe’s career based on that highlight package alone.

Then on Draft night in 1996, the Lakers brain trust of Dr. Buss & Jerry West pulled off a trade that sent Kobe to the Lakeshow. I was as ecstatic as an 8 year-old could be.

Instantly, I ditched my Sedale Threatt Champion-brand jersey for a Kobe #8. Gave me swag before that was even a word.

The past 20 years have been awesome. Just like Kobe, I’ve grown up a lot in these two decades. Once an 8 year-old kid, I’m now a 28 year-old man who’s married and has two kids with one on the way. Kobe came into the NBA as a brash, confident, high-flyer that was the “next MJ.” Now, he’s a five-time champion that teaches the young superstars of the NBA today like they are students looking to learn from a master.

I always tell people sports are a great thing for young people and even adults. Sports give you something to look forward to and remove you from the daily grind and stresses of life. I know I always found happiness from watching Kobe and the Lakers. Yeah, for every missed rebound against the Suns in Game 6 that led to a Tim Thomas 3 and an eventual beat-down in Game 7, there was the game-winners in Game 3 against those same Suns that had me pulling my jersey to the side at a local rec center if I made a big shot. There was the alley-oops from Kobe to Shaq against Portland to cap off an amazing comeback, the countless Jazz-Laker games in the Delta Center here in Salt Lake City, the Game 7 victory over the Celtics to win that fifth ring, and so on.

When a lot of kids or teenagers turned to negatives in their life, I always had an 8:30 tip time with Kobe and the Lakeshow to give me comfort.

When there wasn’t a game to watch, I’d pour over endless magazine articles, books, videos, basically anything I could to watch and learn the ways of the Mamba.

When I was a young kid, I’d even save a few paychecks from my paper route to have enough money to get the Kobe II’s and a Nike Lakers shooting shirt. I wanted all things Kobe, whenever I could, and in the back of my mind I always thought that would be something the Mamba could appreciate; someone obsessing and entrenching themselves into their passion.

Following Kobe’s career was a real joy, and I hope that my sons have players or teams (hopefully the Lakers) that give them the same fun and excitement that I had growing up.

Along with just entertainment, I’ve always admired Kobe’s competitive drive. Along with my Dad, who’s the hardest worker I know, I credit Kobe for learning about being a fierce competitor, following your passions in life, and setting goals. I know, you’re probably thinking, what the hell Mitch, a guy you never met or know has taught you all that? As strange as it sounds, yes, yes he did.

Tip of the cap to Kobe Bryant, the ultimate G.O.A.T. in my book and the greatest Laker ever. It has been a pleasure watching your career and I can’t wait to see what the storyteller in you does next with your life.

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