When Kobe Bryant died on Jan. 26, 2020, thousands paid tribute to the “Black Mamba.” As a child of the 90’s, I saw Kobe grow from a skinny 17-year-old trying to prove his worth to a global superstar.

I used to hate everything about Kobe because our generation grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. I viewed Kobe as someone who could steal the legacy of “His Airness.”

I hated the Kobe who sported the jersey No. 8, because that represented the Kobe Bryant who was cocky, no holds-barred and would always be the stumbling block to the players of my generation like Regie Miller, Allen Iverson, David Robinson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jason Kidd, among others, in winning that coveted NBA Championship.

I remember the feeling of happiness when the number 8 Kobe together with Shaquille O’Neal and the ageing Karl Malone and Gary Payton almost got swept by the ragtag crew of the Detroit Pistons led by Coach Larry Brown, Chauncy Billups, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince.

That experience humbled Kobe. In the next seasons with the Lakers minus O’Neal, he would display his individual scoring brilliance, setting scoring records here and there, but his Lakers would always fall short.

At the start of the 2006-2007 NBA Season, Kobe changed his jersey number to 24, his first jersey number in high school. From then on, the Kobe who was cocky, who was out there to prove himself, slowly transformed into a mature leader and mentor to his teammates.

His competitiveness was still on a high but unlike his younger years, this time he let his work do the talking. Kobe eventually won back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.

That mature Kobe Bryant, a family man, also was the “senior statesman” that led the charge for Team USA filled with youngsters like Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard in winning the Gold Medal during the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics and reclaiming basketball supremacy for the United States of America.

Passing away at only 41, Kobe was gone too soon. But looking at how he lived his life, it could be a reflection of a life lived by most of us.

Kobe’s life is proof that we don’t just live to prove something like number 8 did. More than proving one’s abilities, number 24 taught us to pay it forward.

Kobe was the competitor par excellence because he would not settle for less. As a teammate, he demanded accountability. He would always bring out the best from his competitors.

After his retirement, he championed women’s sports as seen in his mentoring of his daughter Gianna to become his heir apparent.

Life is short and Kobe Bryant in his death reminded us again to seize the day, make each moment count. Farewell Kobe, I hated you as No. 8, but No. 24 taught me to love you, forever!


Photo Credit Michael Wa – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ye-wa/8698945232/in/photostream, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25860118

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