For over a year now, I’ve been thinking about what words I will use to describe your greatness to future generations. The truth is, there are too many to list. Competitor, killer, perfectionist, winner, lethal, determined, fierce, clutch, relentless, willing, the list goes on.
Oftentimes people search for the easiest way to pursue greatness. You taught me and so many others that the only way to establish greatness is to make extreme sacrifices.
My biggest fear in life is becoming content with my situation, or who I am as a person. Once I’m totally satisfied with how I’m doing and how I’m living, I don’t see how there will be a purpose to get up out of bed in the morning. There will always be someone doing something better than I can do myself, and that makes it hard to sleep at night.
“My brain… it cannot process failure. It will not process failure. Because if I sit there and have to face myself and tell myself, ‘You’re a failure’… I think that’s almost worse than death.” You considered being content, as falling short.
Your big brother, Michael Jordan, was looked at as one of the best basketball players of all time the second he touched the floor in the NBA. He’s now universally known as the GOAT. You realized the commitment and dedication it would take to become “Like Mike” but this process of becoming comparable to Jordan was known to be impossible. The odds were against you to accomplish such a bold task. And today you’re known and remembered as the hardest worker of all time. And your idol, Jordan, admits that you outworked him. I know you’d smile at that one.
In a world where the word ‘practice’ is somewhat formidable, you decided to embrace it. You found out Jordan got to the facility at 5 am, you decided 3 am was the time you’d show up from the start to the end of your career. If Jordan got to a game two hours early, Bryant got there four hours early. You pushed yourself to a physical and emotional level that the human body is not supposed to be capable of handling. You wanted to be different, and that you were.
“Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue you will change.” People called your way of doing things crazy, you saw it as necessary to become what you were capable of.
The number of lives you have had an impact on just by being Kobe Bryant is truly incredible. You didn’t just inspire teammates or coaches, or your kids. You inspired me, a kid from Albany, NY, 2,816 miles away from Los Angeles, California. And millions of others just like me.
At a young age, I decided to invest a lot of my time into following not only you as a player, but also you as a leader, a teammate, and most importantly a person. This was one of the best decisions of my life so far.
You taught me to love the process, to prepare myself for any challenge that may lie ahead… but prepare like that challenge will be ten times more challenging than anticipated. You taught me to risk embarrassment and ask questions, that you can learn something from anyone. To push through the pain. You taught me the Mamba Mentality.
What you brought to Laker Nation is more than 5 championships, more than 33,643 regular-season points, more than an 81 point game, more than 20 consecutive seasons, more than 2 Finals MVP Awards, more than a Hall of Famer you brought a lot of people a will to live, a reason to get up and go to work, to embrace being extreme.
Your greatness on the court is undeniable. But your commitment went beyond basketball. Your commitment as a father, a husband, a global icon, you expected more out of yourself than anyone else in this world. And people love to expect nowadays.
People traveled to see Kobe Bryant. Kids begged their parents to see Kobe Bryant. People on the east coast stayed up till 1 AM on a Sunday to see Kobe Bryant play on national television. Now people make a sacrifice, in an attempt to be… like Kobe Bryant.
We shout your name, “Kobe!” as we throw a paper ball into trash cans at the end of math class. We shout your name playing basketball in our driveways as the fake shot clock expires in our head. We keep trying till we make it because that’s what you would have done.
I want to thank you for making a sacrifice that hardly anyone is ever willing to make. You have gotten to the end of a path, that no one thought there was an end to. A path that no one thought was impossible to walk on, you ran on. You have defined all odds. You have done the impossible. You, Kobe Bean Bryant, have changed my life, forever.