Khari M. Griffin, Contributing Writer
Approximately 30 minutes ago, my grandmother called me with tears in her eyes. By this particular moment, I had finally accepted the countless media reports of the tragic death of former NBA superstar and future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.
Although my grandmother did not know Bryant personally and had not spent any significant time watching his games or highlights, she told me she had “felt like I lost a son.” As my grandfather followed and supported Bryant throughout his entire 20-year NBA career, my grandmother felt as if “Bryant was a member of the family.” Looking back on Bryant’s legacy, it is certain that basketball fans, athletes, and those who have never dribbled a basketball can mourn and take his loss personally.
Since I am 21, Bryant had a different meaning to me and my generation. He was basketball. Having lived on the back end of Michael Jordan’s career, Bryant was the contemporary epitome of basketball supremacy.
The term “clutch” and “Kobe Bryant” were used interchangeably throughout the halls of elementary school on up through high school. He was associated with basketball excellence to the point that kids shouted “KOBE!” every time they shot a crumpled piece of paper into a trash can as if it was a basketball.
Beyond his statistics and accolades, Bryant transcended the NBA and the sport of basketball. For players who came straight into the league from high school, Kobe Bryant served as the posterchild for their success. LeBron James, who surpassed Bryant in all-time scoring the night before he died, reflected on Bryant’s influence when James entered the NBA draft directly from high school. With players like Zion Williamson who exhibited complete dominance in high school, Bryant still served as a reference point for the debate over the NCAA “one-and-done” rule.
Regarding the sport of basketball, Bryant impacted the game globally like none other. Having grown up in Italy, where his father Joe Bryant played professionally after an eight-year NBA career, Kobe had a unique appreciation for the game internationally. This is why fans around the world loved him and he inspired many foreign-born players in the NBA today. One memorable moment this past year was when Bryant trash talked to the young Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic in his native language of Slovenian. Bryant also served as the global ambassador for FIBA prior to his tragic passing.
Among the numerous awards, championships, and dominant performances we can remember Kobe Bryant for, the greatest thing we can take away from his life was his “mamba mentality.” Post-career, Bryant brought home a piece of hardware that did not have a basketball or basketball player on it. Instead, this trophy was an Oscar, which Bryant won for his contribution to the animated short film “Dear Basketball” based on a poem he wrote to announce his retirement.
We can all apply Bryant’s “mamba mentality” to our own lives. If you want to achieve something, chase it passionately and put the work in – every single day. No matter what challenges may arise, summon your inner “Mamba” and persevere through them.