I, for one, never thought this day would come. The day that my favorite player would hang up his Nikes. I’m lucky enough to say I remember the day Kobe Bryant played his first game in the NBA. I remember the dunks, the bald head, the eery (forced) resemblance to MJ that turned into the actual second coming, the airballs, the game winners, all 5 championships…I remember it all.
This may come as a surprise to some but: I am not a basketball player. I know, it’s a shock. Yet, Kobe Bryant has been one of my biggest heroes since I was 10 years old. I didn’t have hoop dreams. I knew I’d never stand on that podium with one fist pumping the air while the Larry O’Brien trophy waited for me to plant a kiss on it. But Kobe was who I wanted to be. #8, and then #24, inspired me in ways that people in my same preferred profession could not. He was hated before it was cool to have “haters”. He was arrogant before Kanye turned a whole generation of sensitive kids into assholes. He was unstoppable and yet penetrable enough to use doubt as fuel for his unquenchable fire. He was King in my eyes.
You see, I, too, was a kid who at an early age knew what I wanted to become. Likewise, I decided that whatever sacrifices I had to make to get there were worth it. It was Kobe who assured me that this was what legends did. High school and college were not, for me, what they were for others. Like Kobe, I cared less about making friends and more about learning as much as I could about what I wanted to do and getting to the good part…the game. Like Kobe, I spent a lot of my time alone — -rehearsing, praciticing for my big shot, obsessing over what legacy I’d leave behind. Like Kobe, I am a Virgo. A sign desperately concerned with perfection. A type of person who expects greatness not only of ourselves but of all those around us. You think I’ve always been liked?
But it was Kobe’s ability to play through the noise — -with it, even — -that taught me the two most important lessons for my journey. The first, give it your all. Everything you have. Shots not falling? Hit the boards. Team not in playoff contention? Play every night like you’re a champion anyway. The way you rehearse, is the way you perform. And only you know your best. The second, if I must, I can do it all alone. One is a whole number. It is not lonely. It is not less than. It is whole. And it is enough. Kobe taught me that. The power of one. One more minute of rehearsal. One more second of grind. One more freethrow on a torn achilles. One more game winner. One more ring than the guy they said you couldn’t win without. One more than 23 on the jersey. One more game.
One more game.
Thank you, Kobe.