Michael Jordan. Shaquille O’Neal. Charles Barkley. Scottie Pippen. Dennis Rodman. Hakeem Olajuwon. Magic Johnson. Karl Malone. Penny Hardaway.
Most of you know these names because they are all related to the game of basketball. These men are only a few of the athletes that made me fall in love with the game of basketball growing up. I can recall trying to keep my eyes open and glued to the TV screen as the games would come down to the final seconds. It would be one of those really close games, almost midnight, and all a team needed was one shot to either win or tie the game. I always fell asleep at the very end of a game when there were only about 2 or so minutes remaining and 2 minutes of playing time in the NBA feels like 10 minutes after everyone are fouled and shooting free throws. Same thing today.
After Michael Jordan retired, I can admit that I lost interest in the game. I didn’t watch much of basketball anymore. A game here and there. But I did still have all of my favorite players fuzzy pictures that I had snipped from the newspaper (seems like a thing from the past) taped inside of my closet. About a year or so before Jordan retired a young fresh kid out of Philadelphia would be drafted into the NBA league. Everyone always talked about how good he looked. Ehhh….not so much to me, but whatever!! As he’s matured and aged a little I can see his handsomeness starting to peak through.
I’m referring to Kobe Bryant. He retired from the NBA about a year ago and Monday night they retired not one, but two, of his jersey’s and hung them up in the famous Staples Center in California.
As I watched him being honored during half time of the LA Lakers and Golden State (my team) game while thousands of people stood and clapped for him a video begins to play. Illustrated in what appears to be a penciled outlined cartoon we hear Kobe’s voice reading a letter he title “Dear Basketball” to announce his retirement.
“You asked me for my hustle; I gave you my heart.” -Kobe Bryant
Like I said earlier, I missed some years of basketball and totally missed when he went from #8 to #24. Or either it never dawned on me that he was in a different number. I assumed he was always in #24. But he was so remarkable as a player to where if they separated the two numbered jersey’s both numbers would still qualify to be hung in the stadium just based off of his performances while wearing them both.
Many people have tried to relate him to Michael Jordan or to see who was the best player between the two. I’ve heard Kobe say often that he’s only wanted to be himself over these years. I think that he was able to do that. With 20 years on one team, 60 points in his very last game played, 5 NBA championships, and a ton of achievements and accolades—-so many that I just don’t have room to list. He was fresh out of high school, he had a determination to win and he never accepted failure as an option; I don’t think many people or players can top that. I believe if his body could take a few more years of pounding he would still be in the league.
There were times when Kobe wasn’t always relatable though. He had several feuds with team members and coaches throughout his 20 years of playing. He often used hard and negative times as opportunities to strive to be a greater player. During difficult times within his personal life he created the alter-ego Black Mamba for when he was on the court. It was his way of separating who he was in his personal life from who he was in his professional life.
As he took the mic Monday night to share his gratitude and to give thanks to those who inspired him twenty years prior to him he also expressed his hope that the next twenty years of basketball are even better than the twenty years he’s had playing the game. As with many of us, our good usually outweigh our bad and the same thing had happened for Kobe Bryant. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players of all times!
He leaves the court with “Mamba Out” and gently lays the mic on the floor (I’m sure he would have dropped the mic if he could).
Often times when I view athletes or famous people I look at them and their accomplishments and see how I can relate to that person or their drive when it comes to achieving goals. Are these individuals relatable to me? Can I pull inspiration from these people? Not to idolize or to put anyone on a pedestal but to gain a momentum to continue to strive towards excellence. If they can do it so can we. Just like Kobe, we can all be ourselves and achieve in life when we have a determination and a will to succeed. We don’t necessarily have to be “Like Mike.”
This post was inspired by word of the day Daily Prompt: Relate