When Kobe first came into the league in 1996, as an eighteen year old, fresh out of high school, I was inspired. Me, As a high school freshman, who played and love (still) the game of basketball, figured I was right behind him... (Ha! How grandiose of me!)
In truth, I was on the freshman "B" team, had just discovered there was a Summer League, and while I had my "nice" moments on the playground court (and did make varsity my senior year-off the bench) there wasn't a fighting chance I put in enough work to play college ball, let alone make it to the league!
Around this time Jordan's illustrious career was coming to an end, and it seemed like every special talent since, was donned, the next Jordan. Amazing players like, Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Vince Carter -And of course, a little later- Lebron James to name a few. And while they certainly made their marks, and lasting impressions, the work and phenomenal career of Kobe, while extremely respected, was (admittedly) a little too under appreciated by me. Having numerous debates with friends who were die hards with such criticisms as: "Yea he's a beast, but he models his game off Jordan", "You can never be greater than the very one you model your whole style after"or "yea, of course he's dominating he had Shaq in his prime" But, of course, later with his achilles game, his 81 pt game, his ring without Shaq, would all but silence my harsh criticism with what would come to be known as the Mamba mentality.
In truth I probably envied him, a little, and of course all the debates were in good humor and love for the game of basketball. The couple times I was able to inadvertently meet him, I appreciated the style, class and professionalism in which he carried himself. I believe he represented our generation appropriately, and on his final season, when I was able to watch him play his last game in Denver, that December of 2015, I knew I was witnessing something special. If there was ever a motivating force to model my goals after, it was him. His work ethic and focus to achieve his targeted objective was always clear and therefore difficult not to admire!
Unfortunately, like so many other things, I took for granted, a special talent that showed grit and determination on the court, as well as humility and class off the court. He is a perfect example that even when mistakes are made you can still bounce back and become what you've always strived to be. And I don't think it gets more aspirational or inspirational than that. As sports, like life, is just as much a part of the Buttawear culture as music and art.. (it is, after all, a lifestyle) I'd be remiss if I did not pay tribute to his legacy. They say people never get the roses while they can still smell them. I myself am guilty of that... And with this past January 26th being the anniversary of a very tragic day in the sports world and the start of one the craziest years to date, it is also a sober reminder to appreciate all that we have, big and small, while we have them, because... well, tomorrow simply isn't promised.