I didn’t know you. I never met you. I watched you from afar, in the yellow seats of the TD Garden, hoping that the Celtics could find a way to stop your unmatched ability to score. I bleed green, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t shout “Kobe” before throwing something in the trash.
To be clear there are parts of your life that I strongly did not agree with, and as a person you made choices that I do not condone. However, in professional sports there is a line between the person and the persona. In my mind, I like to believe you were trying to right your wrongs. Because the impact you have made and continue to make on the game of basketball will never be replicated.
No other athlete has the level of Mamba Mentality that you embraced. It is tough to put into words what you mean to the game of basketball. The workouts before practice, hours after practice, hours before games, and hours after them. You showed us how giving everything you had to the game can reward you, and taught us what it meant to be a competitor. There were no off days, and no injury could keep you from playing for long. You tore your Achilles and still shot your free throws. Those moments made having a Mamba Mentality something every athlete wanted to achieve.
You inspired a whole generation of athletes, but especially those, like me, who shared your love of basketball. We could see your love for the game in the way you played, the way you spoke, and the way you shared your gift with your children. Especially Gigi.
I absolutely hated you as a Celtics fan. But I had the highest level of respect for your talent, your dedication to hard work, and the way you respected the true form of the game.
What hurts the most is your daughter reminds me of the young girl I used to be. Certainly not skill-wise, she was making moves at the age of 13 that I couldn’t dream of mastering. But her mindset was scarily close to mine: the determination to play for the top women’s basketball program in the country, wanting to prove that girls are just as skilled as boys, and a pure joyous love of the game. She was absolutely destined to be a legend, just like you.
The way you supported the WNBA and women’s sports was exactly what society needed. You showed your daughter incredible role models of badass women by taking her to games and meeting players and coaches. As a girl who was shown the same support by her own parents, it breaks my heart knowing she won’t be able to reach her full potential.
It’s unimaginable to think that you and your beautiful daughter are no longer here. It’s unfathomable to think we won’t get to hear your Hall of Fame speech. It’s unbelievable to think we won’t get to see your daughter rock a UCONN jersey. All we can do is imagine what could have been, what would have been. I don’t think I will ever fully process this. It honestly still feels like a cruel joke. Tragedies make you realize how quickly things can change, and how often we take the little moments in life for granted. But the Mamba Mentality is something that will live on forever.
Thank you for what you have brought to basketball, and to athletics in general. Your short film hits a little differently now. I used to watch it with an empathetic feeling of knowing what it will feel like when my playing career is over. While I still have those feelings, I now see the deep and pure appreciation you had for basketball. As someone who has that same admiration for the game flowing through my veins, I thank you for sharing your passion with us, and for showing us what it means to give everything you have for the love of the game.
Dear Kobe. Thank you. Rest in Peace to you and Gigi.
A young fan who will forever yell “Kobe” before throwing something away