There was this time in life when I was just a lost soul. I’d been with the wrong group of friends, my academics went down the drain, I had a 40inch waist, yes – I was lost. This was in 11th grade. I started playing basketball with a friend that changed my life. Currently, apart from darts – I do not do anything that I used to do from before taking up basketball. That’s how big of a change it was to my life. It was during the time of the Championship Lakers and Shaq, Kobe, Iverson and Vince Carter were all the rage. I instantly fell in love with the Lakers chemistry, fell in love with AI’s style and perseverance and I loved Vince’s shoes. The Nike Shox were the first proper basketball shoe I ever bought. Iverson’s jersey was the first official NBA apparel that I got. Shaq’s style was what I tried to emulate – Yes, I’m not that tall but I was fat and that’s what I began to use. Thank god I didn’t have his free throws. And Kobe was just – well, I liked his French beard and afro I guess. But the seeds were planted and the Lakers still are my team to root for till date.
I started taking up basketball a bit more seriously and lost quite a bit of weight – slowly then Kobe came to the front of the pack. His hugely publicized beef with Shaq, his supposed carrying of games and the negativity that came with it and his quick quips on how bad his team mates were. He had only one MVP his whole career which is something I still cannot believe. He was legit the best player on the planet for at least 5 years and he was an assassin for most of his career. I do not say this as a Kobe fan but the stats and just the fact that his team was bad – affected his chances for the MVP. At the time all I thought was that this guy was just an arrogant and brash dude who was just insanely talented in the game. He was still my favorite player but when you walked around liking a Kobe at the time you got called out – He’s a F@#king ball hog!! He isn’t efficient!! Of course he’d score 50 if he took 40 shots!! Stuff like that. And it kept happening till the day he retired – Yes, that’s true – so don’t lie to me or yourself.
He came to Dubai for a Nike event that I helped in organizing. He was in makeshift basketball cage inside Dubai Mall taking shots and greeting people. I couldn’t see him – it was maybe my only chance of ever seeing him in person. I missed it..
It was always a dream to see him live at Staples playing for the Lakers but I never could get to the USA to see a game – guess some dreams are just that you know – dreams.
Towards the end of his career he opened up a bit more to the media. At the time I had moved away from basketball but I couldn’t and still cannot stop following the NBA. The way he spoke, the perseverance that he showed, the number of hours he put in day in and day out. That killer attitude aka Mamba Mentality – it’s what defined him. He was legendary in whatever he did because of the way he did it.
There are a few things I took away from him at this point – it coincided with me leaving Dubai and heading to India to pursue Darts. “Follow your passion. If you get up one day and question why you should go to work, you’re wasting your time. If you follow what you want to do then every day you have the best job in the world”. “Outwork your potential”. These are things I tried to live by but the one thing that he did that helped me the most was this – Every day you practice 4 hours a day. What if you woke up early and instead of two 2-hour sessions you did three. And then you intensify that to longer practices and then you’re doing three sessions of 3-hour practices – while your peers are still at 4 hours a day. What happens in a week? Whatever you’ve done in 3-4 days, they’ve done in a week and if you keep going on and on that distance keeps getting further and they can never catch up – it’s impossible for them to catch up. So yes, I did lose when I was in India, I did lose matches but I know that the ones I lost were games where I just didn’t perform. I needed to sort that out and I am currently doing that. But why is there such a drop in talent in India? Read this para again to understand.
During these years when he retired and right after that, we got to see his family more publicly. His daughters and wife were present for many basketball games that he would attend. He spoke of motivation and the intellectual side of the game. I slowly noticed that whatever this dude said wasn’t just for basketball but it had the merits in life itself. I run his motivational talks on my phone nowadays to get ready for matches. The last year has been by best so far and it’s honestly just because of the thought process that I have tried to build while following him.
He showed the world that he was a great father. Honestly, many people can be great at sports, many can be great at a lot of things. Being a great dad, inspiring people to be the best they can be, showing them the value of hard work, being an example of how you can always continue on with your life after one avenue has finished – he’s a bloody Academy Award winner!!
He wasn’t only my favorite sportsman of all time – he was more than that. He was the greatest impact anyone has had on my life since my mother.
The memories of him will always be livid, the lessons will always remain.
Mr. Kobe Bryant – there has been enough chatter on social media of how you’ve been more commonly known – Mamba, Vino, Legend… I’m fed up of that and seeing the RIP’s even though I myself said it. You’ve done enough in your short span on this planet. You’ve done things that people couldn’t finish in even two lifetimes and that’s why it’s so hard to cope with your loss.
I just hope that people grasp the teachings you’ve left them with. Coz that’s the main thing you’ve left behind to the world. A guide to how to get off ones ass, work your butt off and keep learning so that you can be the best version of yourself.