The Kobe Effect
For Kobe —
From Manila to Reggio Emilia —
Los Angeles to Boston —
From Girl Dads to Girl Moms —
Young Mambas to Mambacitas —
From athletes to musicians —
Scholars to storytellers —
Remember in school, at the office, anywhere really, holding that tightly crumbled-up piece of paper between your hands? Taking a step back and methodically shooting it into the trashcan — always shouting out one word: Kobe.
This went for Lakers fans and non-Lakers fans alike, basketball watchers and non-basketball watchers respectively.
This simple, and at the time inconsequential act was believed to be a cultural byproduct of Kobe Bryant’s fearless shooting and unpredictable style of play.
Or was this just another result of the Kobe Effect?
From global athletes to celebrities, prime ministers to presidents, across continents, Kobe captivated the entire world. He penned in his Player’s Tribune piece, 8Teen, “A lion has to eat. Run with me or run from me.” Nearly everyone chose the former.
Was it because of the moment against Golden State in 2013? With 3:08 left in regulation, two foul shots, a chance to tie the game, and a devastating torn Achilles. And how Kobe walked across the hardwood, made both, and walked off, unflinching.
Could it be because of his masterful, 81-point game against Toronto in 2006?
Was it simply because of the allure of his work-of-art, baseline fadeaway jumper?
Because of these reasons and more, the world believed Kobe was immortal. Everyone told themselves he was untouchable, a phenom, on a completely different level.
But the thing about Kobe Bryant and his celestial effect, it was not because Kobe was superhuman — it was because he was human. The Mamba was entirely human.
As a five-time NBA champion, the MVP of the league in 2008, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, an 18-time All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, an Oscar Winner, and an eternal Lakers Legend, Kobe Bryant was more human than anyone. Kobe Bryant was himself.
He was alive in every sense of the word, through pain, shame, and struggle... bliss, breakthrough, and success. He never ran from anything, instead the world watched as Kobe ran through. That unrelenting will made the rest of the world wonder what they could handle too.
He created a philosophy that became a practice in approaching everyday life. A philosophy that imparted how beauty comes from the struggle and how darkness is merely a place the light comes from.
He often said, “even if the villain in me...” never hiding from his ruthlessness or diminishing his ferocity. Kobe never apologized for being Kobe because his ruthlessness and ferocity fed his compassion and vigor. Accepting himself allowed him the greatest advantage of all: he could recognize the best in anyone.
“He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally,” Michael Jordan said of his disciple.
“I liked challenging people and making them uncomfortable. That’s what leads to introspection and that’s what leads to improvement. You could say I dared people to be their best selves,” Kobe wrote in Mamba Mentality.
It’s too often people are afraid of their potential, of their greatness. They are full of distractions, excuses, they’re full of tomorrows. Never Kobe. No distractions. No excuses. Kobe never put anything off till tomorrow. And through his life and death, people now know we cannot — because we might not have it.
He was the world’s mirror. Everyone looked at Kobe and remembered who they could become. To this day, his loss is still felt. But if Kobe taught anybody anything, the only option is to take the loss and make something better of it.
Here’s to the Mamba, a man, Kobe.
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