First of all, before we get into anything else, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for coming into my life when I was a 2-year-old Laker fan, making me fall in love with the game at that young age.
Seeing you with Shaq and winning 3 championships cemented my love for the Forum Blue and Gold. The Number 8, and afro were iconic. The defensive chops, the crossover that got Scottie Pippen out of his shoes before ‘The Lob’. The way you took over the finals against the Pacers after Diesel fouled out was only something you could do. And it was only the beginning.
When you switched to 24, that’s when the second act started. The Black Mamba. Vino, as you aged gracefully. Another 2 championships with Pau and Lamar Odom and you did it all with class and humility. You also beat those guys from Boston in green that we will always be grateful for. 2012-13, when you willed a depleted, incredibly hurt the team to the playoffs; averaging 46 minutes a game until your body just said enough.
What you did for USA basketball, and brought that back to the forefront was amazing. Without you, the Redeem team never would have happened, the 2012 Olympics were great too. And we would not have had that iconic game against Spain. I just hope you apologized to Pau after the fact.
As a father and outside of the basketball realm, you were in your zone. Still, the same Mamba Mentality that we saw and loved as a player but focusing it into different areas. People work for an Academy Award for DECADES, and then there was you, Kobe Bean, coming in clutch 2 years after retiring, conquering that world too. Your bond with Gianna was special and she would have grown up to be special too.
Mambacita was going to run wild in the NCAA and WNBA and be the person to carry along your legacy, be the best ever and have just as many records as the Mamba had. She had the same glint in her eye as you did, and you could just tell how proud you were of her, and that her excelling was more important to you than anything you had accomplished in your career.
I just want to say thank you, Kobe. Thank you for your 20 years in LA, for your 18 All-Stars, for your MVP, 2 Finals MVP’s, 33,643 Points, 7047 Rebounds and 6306 Assists. Thank you for the 5 titles you brought to our franchise. Thank you for instilling a Mamba Mentality into everything I do, making sure that I’m never satisfied with 2nd place. You gave this Bosnian Boy in Manchester a license to dream and taught him to work hard for each of those dreams to come true…
I still can’t talk about you in the past tense, and I still can’t come to grips with the fact there is no more Kobe Bryant in the world I live in. You wouldn’t want me to be distraught, you would have wanted all of us to instill Mamba Mentality even in these tough times and this is what I’m going to do. All my achievements will now be dedicated to you, my hero and idol.
Hopefully, our paths will cross someday, in a place that none of us understand.
As you beautifully put, ‘I’ll always be that kid, With the rolled-up socks, Garbage can in the corner, 05 seconds on the clock, Ball in my hands.’ All because of you.
Love you always,