We were preparing the whole year for 'Mamba Day', Kobe Bryant's last game of his NBA career. Only dawning the Laker purple and gold for twenty years, Bryant added to the dynasty while forging a legendary path of his own--five titles, eighteen all-star appearances and the highest scoring guard in NBA history.
Kids my age know about Kobe. I was in kindergarten when he helped push Shaq over the top and reignited the Lakers dynasty of old. I didn't get to witness all of those Jordan moments, but I saw the Mamba ascend to the mountain top, this time on his own, in 2009 and 2010, and I watched him ride out into the sunset with 60 points on 50 shots. I grew up with him. Kobe was the first basketball GOAT I watched.
The game is going to miss Kobe Bryant even though it's about damn time that he left. Despite the start of the NBA playoffs, the Black Mamba's exit has remained a topic of interest for sports reporters. The interviews of old friends speaking on his high school days at Lower Merion and the oral history of the boy from Philadelphia's epic saga reveal just how much basketball meant to Kobe Bryant.
It's true that you don't truly know what you have until it's gone. As Kobe's illustrious career unfolded before our eyes, we weren't aware of the full extent this man went to prepare, practice and dominate his craft. Over a decade after Michael Jordan's final game, basketball-heads are still learning larger-than-life factoids and anecdotes of his Airness. This past week has welcomed many former teammates, opponents and coaches of Bryant to reminisce on the more private subtext of his playing days.
Take some time to get a fuller scope of the enigmatic Kobe Bryant with these riveting articles and visuals.
"'You may lose your family, your freedom, but I'll be damned if I lose basketball. Because this shit I can control.' - Mamba Out by Ramona Shelbourne
"This stuff is a little harsh, huh?" he says, swapping out the CD after about the eighth n-bomb. "You like the Spice Girls? A lot of people hate them, but the positive image they project, how they make kids feel, I admire that." -The never ending story: Who is the authentic Kobe? by Mike Wise
"I remember when I got to the Lakers in ’99, I went to a TGI Fridays with Kobe in New Mexico. We had a long conversation, and he wanted to pick my brain about what MJ was like. “How much did he practice? How did he work out? How did he evolve his game?” I told him, MJ brought a new thing every year. One year, pull-up jump shot. The next year, fadeaway. “How did he carry himself?” I told him MJ was always in a suit and tie. When MJ went to work, he went to work. Kobe was really intrigued about all that." - Horace Grant in How We'll Remember Kobe