My phone lit up with a text from my sister in the family group chat, Kobe had passed away in a helicopter crash. I didn’t feel like that news was accurate. So I opened up Twitter and saw for myself the reports of the helicopter crash.

I wasn’t sure how to feel. I felt sorry for Kobe Bryant. I felt sorry for his wife. Then the news that his daughter was on board, made my feeling even worse. My heart goes out to the family of Kobe Bryant, and those who were also on board when the helicopter went down.

I did not weep for the man who helped shape my sporting life with his “Mamba mentality”. Rather, I chose to reflect on what he meant to me, and the game. He was a player who we all loved to hate. He was cocky, arrogant, and he was the best.

I remember my grandma would say how much she didn’t like him whenever they would show him on Sportscenter. She thought he was a ball hog and a showboat. She wasn’t necessarily wrong, but little did she know, I wanted to be just like that.

I’ve told the story before, of how in sixth grade I silenced the crowd in the St. Pius gym after making a few baskets. I let my ego get the best of me. My coach got upset and sat me for the remainder of the game because I was “showboating”. Looking back now, I was a cocky and arrogant basketball player, but that was because Kobe did it first.

Growing up watching Kobe win his three-peat as number 8, then going down to my Pistons in ’04. Kobe then came back after to win back to back titled in ’09 and ’10 as number 24. He was the only player at the time, that I know of, that had a rap song that was all about him.

I wanted to be like Kobe. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win.

When I was home, and practicing in the driveway I would have a countdown in my head, “five… four… three… two…” and just before I got to one, I would jack up some wild shot. As I let it fly. I’d practice my turnaround fade-away, backing down my imaginary opponent then faking left, pivoting and shooting. After every shot I took, the same word would always come out of my mouth, “Kobe!”

I held my follow through just like he would. I stuck my tongue, or mean mugged my imaginary opponent whenever I would make a basket. I was even known to yank jersey across my chest the way he did.

Thinking back on it, I had to have looked at little funny running around my driveway, banging my chest and yelling at nobody. But what did I care? I was the best in my own mind.

As I sit here at my desk typing this all out, I crumpled up a piece of paper and tossed it into the trash, giving one last “Kobe!”. Rest in peace Mr. Bryant, I’ll never forget you.

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