Unlike most fans’ relationships with their favourite players, mine was formed through the revisiting and reliving of past historic greatness.
Instead of countless years watching a player slowly progress until you realise that you are witnessing a once in a lifetime talent, my first interaction threw me into the middle of a legend’s prime.
That’s because I was only a month old when an explosive, mature 21-year-old won his first NBA championship. However, I would have to wait until I was eight years old to first hear about him.
Being the redheaded wrestling fan that I was, the team with three identifiable stars whose mascot was a leprechaun drew to me like nothing ever had. Immediately, my young brain was hooked on the Boston Celtics.
But after only a few days into this newly immaculate honeymoon, I came across him.
Clearly, as an uninformed eight-year-old boy, I had merely dipped my toes into the vastness of the NBA. But even then, it was beyond clear that Kobe Bryant was the best player on that court.
So, whether accurate or not, when I watched those finals highlights as a kid, it was like watching your all-time favourite wrestler get jumped by a powerful wrestling group… who also had chairs.
From that first season on, the Celtics were always my team but Kobe Bryant was forever my favourite player. This unique affection for Kobe as a Celtics fan made me appreciate the 2010 Finals so much more and forged the NBA as my all-time favourite thing ever.
Without Kobe, I am not writing NBA articles as a passion.
But from that point on, as I grew wiser with league history and particularly Kobe’s greatest feats, while simultaneously watching the icon repeatedly fail on experimental rosters and deal with Achilles injuries, my love for him only grew.
That’s because through it all – the playoff airballs in ’97, the three-peat in the early 2000s, breaking away from Shaquille O’Neal, the revenge on the Celtics, the ugly last years to capping off with a 60-point game – through all of his incredible, extensive career, he remained the Alpha.
Kobe’s Alpha status was not limited to his on-court dominance, which spread fear into every grown man that he played against and with, always providing memorable nights for the fans no matter the competition.
Or his efforts off the court that publicised him as an inquisitive mastermind capable of speaking four languages, as well as being a loving father to four beautiful children.
In fact, Kobe’s legacy was unveiled in everything he put his time into. Himself being his biggest project.
Because Kobe was never perfect. He could have been a better teammate. He could have been a better husband.
Because he was just like every person reading this – a human.
But what made Kobe stand out from the rest was the Mamba Mentality. He understood from a very young age that with a relentless work ethic, a forever open and curious mind to better oneself and by always seeking to exceed expectations, that he would reach greatness.
He was so much more than a ball player; he was a mastermind in how to get the most out of yourself, how to always remain hungry.
With a year now gone since his tragic passing, that’s what stands out the most.
Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant.