This afternoon Kobe Bryant and his daughter tragically passed away in a helicopter crash. It’s crazy to think I was sitting in church with my wife and kids as he was in the last moments of his life. I don’t grieve well. Candidly, I don’t want to grieve this. I want to push past it and pretend it’s not tearing me up inside right now. In my lifetime there have been a handful of earth shattering moments, this is one of them. This letter isn’t about me. God… This letter is my humble attempt to say “thank you” openly to Kobe Bryant.
Man, I’m still at the surface level of shock hearing that you’re gone. I had just got home from church when my wife texted me from the coffee shop, “Babe! Prepare your heart, for real, for real. This is sad news. Kobe Bryant is dead…” Like I’m sure millions of other people are feeling right now my heart is sitting in my stomach. My wife hasn’t stopped crying since finding out you’re gone. I never met you, and this side of eternity never will, but I want to share the impact you’ve had on my life.
I have been a fan of basketball as far back as I can remember. I grew up watching Sunset Park, White Men Can’t Jump, Above the Rim, Space Jam, And 1 Mixtapes, and Pistol: The Birth of a Legend. I spent most of my free time at a park down the street from my house ballin’ with the other neighborhood kids trying to stay out of trouble. At the park everyone was a Jordan fan. Jordan is Jordan, and everybody loves MJ, which is why I didn’t want to be an MJ fan. He’s the G.O.A.T but I never liked following the crowd. What drew me to you was that you too didn’t like following the crowd either. I remember when you were drafted by the Hornets and were immediately traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. I also remember an older friend of mine saying, “The Lakers are stupid! They trading Divac for a high school kid.” For whatever reason my friend’s diss made me want to follow your career in the hopes you would prove him wrong. And prove him wrong you did. On the court you were lightning in a bottle. That gold Lakers jersey with purple number 8 cut to the rim with so much finesse and finished with authority. Everyone else could have Jordan, I was with Kobe. Thank you Kobe for teaching me it doesn’t matter what the naysayers think, what matters is your actions.
In seventh grade, I almost didn’t tryout for my school basketball team because the only pair of shoes I had were so torn up I slipped all over the court. My tía bought me a pair of shoes so I could play. When the day came that my mom saved enough money to buy me a pair of basketball shoes I could choose for myself, the decision was easy, I wanted Kobe’s. I walked out of footlocker that day with your Adidas Crazy 8’s and the biggest swag of my life. My step dad still has those shoes in his garage.
Walking into practice the day after getting my Kobe’s I kept strutting around the gym singing your Sprite commercial with Tim Duncan, “Kobe…Bryant! Slam dunk…Giant!” That season every time I stepped on the court I felt like I could do amazing things because I had my Kobe’s. Thank you Kobe for helping a scrawny Latino kid develop self-confidence and belief in himself.
When I was 15, my brother died and my world was turned upside down. I feel crazy writing this but one of the greatest comforts and sources of hope I had was a Slam Magazine with you featured on the cover. Inside the article you talked about your drive, your focus, your determination to be the best, prove your doubters wrong, and be the best basketball player you could be. I read that magazine so much I almost memorized your entire interview. When my universe was spinning out of control, basketball was something constant that I could rely on and you were in the center of that. I’m praying your memory will continue to provide comfort and hope for your wife, your surviving daughters, and your fans today. Thank you Kobe for helping a hurting teenager fight to pick up the pieces from the loss of a loved one.
You started playing ball at three, and I started teaching my oldest son to play when he was three. Some of my son and I’s fondest memories are when I taught him to play HORSE on his little tikes 6 ft. rim in our backyard. Every time he hit a jump shot from 3 ft. or beyond I would yell, “KOBE!” To this day when I play with my son and he hits a big shot he calls, “KOBE!” Thank you for helping a man who grew up without a dad build memories with his kids.
I just told my son you passed away a few hours ago in a helicopter crash. All he could do was put his hands over his eyes and hug his mama. You’ve left an impression on generations of my family. Mr. Bryant you’ve left a lasting legacy in my life. You weren’t a perfect man, but none of us are. Despite your worst days, I am a better person and family man because of your influence. My heart aches because you’re gone. But it breaks at the thought of your daughter passing away, and the pain and grief your surviving family must be feeling. I wish I had the opportunity to tell you in life the impact you’ve had on me, but I pray that your legacy is honored by my sharing at your death. Rest in Peace Kobe Bryant. I thank my God for the 41 years we got to have you. The Mamba mentality lives on…