Kobe. Bryant.

It doesn’t matter if you watch basketball, everyone knows the name. Kobe Bryant was one of the best basketball players I have ever seen play the game. Not only was he one of the greatest to ever touch a basketball, his work ethic always inspired me the most.

In most of the sports columns I write, I usually analyze the player by heavily supporting my opinions with statistics. In this one, however, I will only mention a few because, to me, Kobe had a bigger impact on me than his box score showed.

For those who are familiar with Kobe, you have heard of the “Black Mamba.” This was his alter ego. When Kobe stepped on the court, he wasn’t Kobe anymore.

He was the Black Mamba. In an interview a few years ago, he spoke about it helping his sanity as he was going through a lot of things off of the court.

As he was the Black Mamba on the court, his work ethic was known as “Mamba Mentality.” The meaning of Mamba Mentality is to constantly work, letting nothing stop you. It means to strive to be the best at what you are doing, no matter what obstacles are in your way, and that’s exactly what Kobe did.

There are so many examples of Kobe’s willingness to do whatever he could to win. He is one of the only players I have ever seen to play through an injury.

In 2013, Kobe made two free throws after rupturing his Achilles to tie the game up against the Golden State Warriors with three minutes left of play. After draining the free throws, he walked off of the court with no help.

Kobe was a player who always wanted to win. He never settled for anything less, which is probably why he is a five-time NBA Champion, two-time Finals MVP and 18-time All-Star in his 20 seasons played. He was a winner, and he won the right way.

When you think of the NBA today, you think about all of these super teams. It kind of stresses me out because you never know when your favorite player will just leave to link up with other superstars in hopes of winning a title. If you were a Lakers fan, you didn’t have to worry about that with Kobe. His loyalty was always something I admired.

Regarding his game, I remember watching him as a kid. When you think about his game, he was insane. He was unguardable. No one could stop Kobe in his prime. When he took a shot, no matter how crazy it looked or how many defenders’ hands were in his face, you always expected the ball to go in. Even today, when I play basketball, I always try to replicate his turnaround fade away. That shot was always my favorite of any player I’ve seen play.

It just wouldn’t sit right with me if I wrote a column about Kobe without mentioning how I fell in love with watching the man. Although I wasn’t alive, I remember seeing the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest on TV once, and I clicked it as there was nothing else on. The between-the-legs dunk was something I never saw before, and I instantly became a fan.

Fast forward to the final game of his career, the whole world was watching. If you watched the game, you could just see how respected Kobe was. Watching Kobe drop 60 points was the perfect way to watch one of the, if not the best scorers to ever play in the NBA go out.

The last thing I wanted to touch on was Kobe’s willingness to share his knowledge of the game on. As Kobe’s daughters started playing basketball, he became their coach. I remember people making jokes about it, but one of the biggest examples of how passionate Kobe was at winning regarded his daughter’s team.

His daughter’s team won a fourth-place trophy, and he asked the girls what they planned on doing with it and they said they were going to throw it away.

Instead, Kobe told the girls to keep it and put it where they would see it every day to remind them of something they would never win again. Two years later, the girls defeated a team they lost to with a score of 115-27. This was Mamba Mentality. This was the most “Kobe” thing I’ve ever heard of, and I loved it.

There is so much more I could write about Kobe. I could write about his relationship with Shaq. I could write about his 81-point game. I could write about #8 Kobe. I could write about #24 Kobe.

The most important thing to me, though, is his impact on the game of basketball. He is one of the few players who have changed how the game is played, whether it be players replicating his move or how defense is played against a literally unstoppable player.

If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that Kobe’s name will live on forever.

RIP Kobe.    

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