Dear Basketball, Kobe Bryant’s brilliant, Oscar-winning short film, was a love letter to the game that gave him so much.
It’s a haunting rewatch that plays out like his own eulogy as the world comes to grips with his tragic and sudden passing.
Like many other sports fans, I’ve spent the last couple of days absorbed by this news trying to comprehend the enormity of the loss and the legacy that he leaves behind. What has become apparent is how far-reaching his influence has been – from US presidents to the biggest teams in world sport, Bryant has left a mark few will emulate.
Not many sports do ‘superstar’ quite like the NBA. From Bill Russell to Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird to Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan to LeBron James, the basketball universe has been littered with superstars for over 60 years.
Growing up in Australia, my NBA fixes were confined to Saturday morning replays from the NBA. The Jordan era inspired a new generation of kids to pick up a basketball, beg mum and dad for a hoop at Christmas and exchange trading cards in the playground. I still remember getting my first pair of Shawn Kemp’s classic Kamikaze shoes! I’d play NBA Jam, drink Gatorade and watch Space Jam on repeat.
Basketball had me and I loved it.
Kobe Bryant was the central superstar of my generation between the two bookends of Michael Jordan and now LeBron James. His feats on the court are legendary: he’s a five-time NBA champion, two-time finals MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist an All Star supremo, and a pending hall of fame inductee.
Buzzer beaters, daggers, dunks and an 81-point game, Kobe had it all. He was the player that rival fans hated and the Lakers Nation adored.
He is one of the greatest ever to grace the floor.
But despite all these incredible achievements, his legacy will centre on his relentless ‘mamba mindset’, a fierce pursuit of excellence underpinned by an unwavering love of the game.
His work ethic and professionalism are legendary. He’s become a pin-up boy in the mindset game and he’s adored among the influencer community.
In his film, he recounts his younger self rolling up his dad’s socks into a basketball and hitting the matchwinner from his bed, pouring through piles of old tapes and being inspired by players of the past, the hours of practice, and playing through the pain of an ailing body.
Kobe loved the game and the game loved him back.
“Love the game”. There couldn’t be a simpler message for fans, players and administrators of any sport. Love the game and watch it love you back. It’s a legacy like this that transcends sport.
This love was the special bond he shared with his daughter, Gianna, an aspiring player who was also tragically killed in the helicopter crash that took the lives of her father and seven others.
Perhaps the most gut-wrenching images over the past few days have been the beautiful clips of a father and his daughter so visibly sharing this love of the game.
It’s a tragic reminder of the fragility of life, and has made any parent cherish time spent with our loved ones just that little bit more the past few days.
Kobe Bryant has left a sporting legacy for decades to come.