There was always something about that purple and gold. Growing up in a state that has zero professional sports teams, it was a free for all as far as who you wanted to lay claim to. I knew who my dad’s favorite teams were, I knew who my uncle’s favorite teams were, and I just knew who my favorite players were. The first athlete I can remember listing as a role model was Kobe Bryant.
I was 3 years old when Kobe suited up for the first time in a Lakers uniform, and while I don’t personally remember his first game, I cannot remember a time when Kobe wasn’t there.
Now 20 years later, I’m the same age Kobe was when the Lakers won three straight titles.
When Kobe announced his retirement in November 2015, it shocked the world. We had watched Kobe suffer injury after injury the past few seasons and not once did the thought of him not being able to bounce back cross peoples’ minds. Through his letter published on The Players Tribune, Kobe talks about how he came to realize it was time to let go, and it took this season for us fans to realize that, too. As a kid your favorite athletes always seem like superheroes. Nearing 23 I still saw Kobe as invincible. Then again who wouldn’t after seeing him shoot free throws without a tendon that led to a Greek demigod’s demise?
Some people watched Kobe grow up, me, I grew up with him.
Thank you Kobe for giving a little girl who couldn’t fall in love with playing the game a reason to still love it, a reason to want to learn the game, and a reason to want to know it well enough that I could speak intelligently about it with people who played their whole lives.
Thank you Kobe for showing me that being younger doesn’t mean I’m incapable. Seeing you go up against the likes of Michael Jordan and Shaq and not backing down made me believe that age was just a number when I stepped onto the field, the track and the playground.
Thank you Kobe for showing me that being driven doesn’t make me psychotic, or maybe it does, but it’s OK. Seeing glimpses of your maniacal drive to perfect your game, it showed me that I am the only person standing in my way.
Thank you Kobe for providing countless arguments between me and my brothers on who is truly more like Michael Jordan, you or LeBron James. I think the majority of people can agree with me on this one, including M.J. himself.
Thank you Kobe for making me believe that anything is possible, for proving that an 81-point game can happen outside of a video game.
Thank you Kobe for making every time I throw a piece of paper into a trashcan the NBA finals, “KOBE!”
Thank you Kobe for making me a Lakers fan for life.
As I watched Kobe on my TV screen for the last time, I couldn’t help but think of all the hours I spent sitting on couches around the world watching him play. This season was definitely not the season I had in mind for the Black Mamba’s exit from the NBA, but his final game in Staples Center was another example of how he never fails to deliver. Sixty points and single handedly outscoring the Jazz in the final quarter and squashing their playoff hopes, could it have been any better?