By Arthur Cribbs
Special to the AFRO
When I heard of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, I had an initial feeling of shock, disbelief and numbness. And in the hours since hearing the news, that feeling has not gone away. For a lot of us in this world, this feeling isn’t going away anytime soon. It truly felt like losing someone close.
In this time of mourning, I just want to say thank you, Kobe.
Growing up in Los Angeles, you were everything for me. You introduced me to winning at an extremely young age. When I was born in 1999, you were a three-year veteran in the NBA and in my first three years of life, you helped the Lakers win three straight league finals. Although I was too young to remember those championship years, I do remember you leading the Lakers to two more NBA finals in 2009 and 2010.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves as he walks off the court after finishing his last NBA basketball game before retirement in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Your ability to be a winner inspired my interest in sports and competition, and it has been a passion of mine ever since. And while winning is great, it was the way you won that stuck with me.
Your “Mamba Mentality” of being your best self and making sure nobody worked harder than you is a work ethic you consistently lived by, and I have been aiming to emulate you in that regard.
You also had an infectious confidence in your game that gave viewers confidence in themselves. I remember when you played your final game on April 13, 2016. Everyone remembers the 60-point performance, but people may forget that you struggled early on in that game, going just 7-20 from the field in the first half. Several players would have just stopped shooting at that point, but you remained confident in your training and took 30 more shot attempts.
Your confidence influenced a generation of kids who watched you play. When I started playing organized basketball, you were in the midst of your MVP season and all I could hear at practice was “Kobe!” every time someone attempted a shot. When it came to shooting a fadeaway jumper or having a pre-free throw ritual, every kid tried to emulate your style.
You also were a symbol that brought unity in the city of Los Angeles. When the Lakers won their championships, you brought the city together at the championship parades. I personally remember waiting for several hours just to see a glimpse of you.
When you played your final game, the country was heading into a heated presidential election. Watching you play though, people were able to detach from the stress of the real world and enjoy you. Whether it was your first game or your last, you always put on a show and you gave your fans everything you could offer.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to another title as shown here in the second quarter of Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
As someone who uses sports to connect with people, you helped me find the confidence to have conversations. With you being such a global figure, it didn’t matter how much the other person was invested in sports. We could always have a conversation about Kobe. With deeply rooted sports fans, I have formed so many close relationships that started by debating where Kobe stands as the greatest of all time (GOAT).
Beyond my life though, you meant so much more to the world. You helped globalize the game of basketball, making the NBA popular in China. At a time when WNBA players struggle to receive support, you served as an advocate for the league. As a family man, you showed what it means to be a father, taking interest in your daughters’ passions and putting them in positions to succeed. When Gianna’s favorite player was Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, you took her to Hawks games to watch Young firsthand.
Thank you, Kobe, for all the memories. You, Gianna and the seven others were taken way too soon, and this world will never be the same.
Arthur Cribbs is a junior journalism major from Los Angeles. He is a Rhoden Fellow at ESPN for TheUndefeated.com. He also works with the Department of Athletics at Howard University and was a production manager for WHUT’s Spotlight Network.
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