The score is 83 to 79. 4th quarter, your time. Game 7. The game where everything you worked for is on the line. The excitement is palpable from all around Staple Center. You look down at your jersey number, 24, and you sense 21,000 pairs of eyes, along with countless more across the globe staring at you, waiting for you and your team to bring it home once more.
11, 10, 9… Rondo shoots a 3. He misses! Pau grabs the rebound, passes to Lamar and chucks it to you! IT’S ALL OVER! The crowd roars in happiness; purple and gold confetti shower from the heavens.
“THE LAKERS ARE THE 2010-2011 NBA CHAMPIONS!”
You flashback to two years ago. The time when you were defeated by this team. Now you are a back-to-back champion! The endless hours spent working on your flaws finally paid off!
The crowd cheers your name, “MVP, Kobe Bryant, MVP…”
You turn around and leap onto the scorers’ table to acknowledge the crowd; stretching out your arms, palms facing the crowd, as if you’re about to embrace all the fans at once. Right at that moment, some unknown photographer takes a photo of you from behind: the most iconic photo of you.
That single, stagnant, iconic photograph of you still captivates me to this day.
I started playing basketball because of you. The plethora of video compilations of your footwork, shots, dunks elevated my basketball game to another dimension. But that wasn’t all. You weren’t only a basketball role model to me, you were also a life mentor. Your mental mindset, ability to persevere and rise after being knocked down truly inspired me. Over the years, I developed a similar Mamba Mentality and the hunger for absolute perfection. All thanks to you.
Thank you, Kobe Bryant.