Dear Kobe: An open letter to Kobe Bryant, who will never be forgotten

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Candles and pictures laid by fans at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Candles and pictures laid by fans at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images) /

An open letter to Kobe Bryant

"“Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired. You don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway…That is actually the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” – Kobe Bryant"

Dear Kobe,

I wanted to start off with this quote because the quote and its context are incredibly meaningful during this surreal time while also perfectly summing up Kobe. This quote is the true meaning of the Mamba Mentality Kobe made so famous and it was his quote to his daughters when the Lakers made him the first NBA player to ever have two jersey numbers retired by the same organization as this man had hall of fame careers in EACH jersey spending 10 years in each jersey in his 20 years playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mamba Mentality was not just about winning, it was about enjoying the process, working as hard as you can and trusting that the work you put in will lead to those results… something Kobe has and will continue to inspire me to do every day.

Kobe Bryant was my favorite athlete and entertainer of all time with no person outside my family has influenced me more than the late, great Kobe Bean Bryant. “Was”… it’s still just unfathomable to speak of Kobe in the past tense as a person and it will take a long time for it to truly set in. I first fell in love with the sport of basketball and sports in general on a sunny day in 1996 when I was three years old and my mom and Nonna (what I called my grandma) took me to go see Space Jam starring Michael Jordan, which is my first memory being alive.

This movie made basketball and inspiration associated with each other forever in my eyes, but Michael Jordan was already a veteran closer to the end than the beginning of his career and I needed to find who MY Michael Jordan would be as I grew up.

My second memory of my life is watching TV with my Nonna hearing them say on TV that, “Kobe Bryant was the youngest player to ever step on an NBA court coming straight out high school”. They then talked about how he had told teammates he wants to be the next Jordan and one of the greatest players of all time. Being only three years old hearing the words “youngest-ever” was the first of many ways Kobe would inspire me as I set out to never let youth stop me from achieving goals.

Fast forward to my 5th birthday on February 8th, 1998 and Kobe had become so good off the bench he once again inspired me to pursue goals no matter how young I was by becoming the youngest all-star starter in NBA history as a bench player at only 19 years old. This game became a spectacle of past vs. present as Kobe showed off moves commentators said they’d never seen before and went one on one with Michael Jordan regularly. The whole game was about Kobe vs. Michael and was Kobe the guy who would take the torch… which he most certainly was as this was Jordan’s last all-star game with the Bulls.

As a young kid, I always pushed myself to read books too advanced for my age and learn as much as I could culminating in me winning an award while in second grade for reading nearly 250 books during “I Love To Read Month” in 2001. I now realize that outside my family Kobe was the largest influence on my inner drive and motivation of achieving what I set my mind to. Kobe’s motivational nature as a young star didn’t stop there.

After this all-star game, Kobe Bryant was global and becoming arguably the biggest star the game had ever seen. In his fourth season from 1999-00, Kobe was clearly becoming one of the best players in the league at the young age of 21 with a thick afro and the number 8 plastered on his jersey. Pretty soon this jersey was plastered on fans across the globe as Kobe began getting video game covers, NBA commercials, awards show appearances and even an appearance with Amanda Bynes, Keenan Thompson and more on legendary ‘90s/’2000s kids show “All That.”

The world mourns Kobe, but what many analysts don’t get is that for many people born in the ‘80s and ‘90s Kobe was our Jordan. Kobe was the guy we got to see grow up and win multiple championships and quite possibly the biggest global icon for my generation. He truly became a global icon when he and NBA MVP Shaquille O’Neal won their first of three straight championships in June of 2000.

Kobe didn’t know it, but he created one of the greatest weeks of my life as I graduated first grade, my favorite player who I had already stuck with won his first championship, my favorite rapper Eminem was the most popular artist in the world with his hit “The Real Slim Shady,” and we got my dog who my parents were nice enough to let me name Creamy due to his Cream color. Creamy and I watched many Laker games together in the ensuing years and I am so thankful Kobe was part of so many special times in my life.

This three-peat made Kobe the stuff of legend as the youngest player to ever win three championships, in a three-peat (three straight) no less, just as his idol Michael Jordan had done. People love to analyze stats, but what everyone is now remembering is that Kobe was the biggest global star on the planet by the end of this threepeat because he was younger than Shaq and inspired millions upon millions of people. It’s not just empty praise that Shaq said, “this is my fourth time in the finals thanks to that man” while pointing to Kobe.

Kobe and Shaq were so good together that they essentially traded off who would dominate which series. They were the most electric duo of all time as they both needed each other and this partnership culminated in a lifelong friendship between the two despite their differences and a beautiful tribute from Shaquille O’Neal yesterday.

Kobe and Shaq would trade off averaging 40 with Kobe as the enigmatic, jump-shooting, high-flying, jump out of the gym dunks player similar to Jordan with Shaquille O’Neal as the dominant interior force throwing down dunks with his massive body. They were an unstoppable duo as they dominated basketball and popular culture through rap references and movie references galore including Kobe mentioned as facing adversity in the 2002 movie Like Mike starring Lil’ Bow Wow and Kobe and Shaq’s three-peat being mentioned as an epic moment of basketball history for my generation in the song, “Basketball”, by Lil’ Bow Wow, Fabolous and Jermaine Dupri. This movie and song are an epic cultural time capsule for a generation and mean even more now.

Kobe and Shaq splitting up with Shaq going to the Heat led to Kobe not making the playoffs for this first time in his career but Kobe came back in full force during the 2005-06 season. Kobe outscored the entire Mavericks team 62-61 scoring 62 points in three quarters by himself. Kobe made Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stand up cheering when he hit a left-handed 3-pointer against Dallas in the fourth quarter, which led to Cuban’s ultimate respect for Kobe. This led to the Mavericks announcing on the day Kobe passed that they will retire Kobe’s number 24, a classy honor showing just how much respect Kobe had league-wide.

The 62 in three quarters in December 2005 was just an appetizer for what would inspire people for years to come on January 22nd, 2006 as Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Raptors, the greatest performance in modern NBA history. One of my favorite moments in my life was watching the highlights in my Nonna’s room as she lived with me and was a sports fanatic growing up. She used this moment to remind me anything was possible as we were both in awe that my favorite player showed why he was my favorite in a moment that extended beyond basketball proving that imagination is truly our only limit.

I’ll never forget showing up at school the next day in the 7th grade telling everyone Kobe was back and he was going to win championships without Shaq. People were amazed, but still came up with reasons why he wouldn’t as Kobe began teaching me to go with my instinct and stand up for my beliefs in the face of adversity. This game was the moment I re-discovered my infatuation with Kobe and how tied his career felt to my life as I bet on this guy continuing greatness when others still refused to acknowledge as many pundits said he would still never win without Shaq.

During the 2006-07 season Kobe scored 50 points four straight times, something only accomplished by Wilt Chamberlain and at this point, I was absolutely obsessed. The whole world was talking about him and Chris Paul later revealed during this streak he asked Kobe for his shoes to donate to charity… but Paul ended up keeping them. Kobe could turn even the biggest stars into fanatic little kids. This streak was so amazing and awe-inspiring that the following day in computer class I couldn’t help but watch Kobe’s top 10 highlights. The teacher threw the highlights up on the screen for everyone to see I was not doing my work as he kicked me out of class, a punishment usually reserved for the bad kids and troublemakers who didn’t have a strong work ethic.

I am pleased to say that I don’t remember what I learned in my eighth-grade computer class, but I sure as hell remember how much Kobe inspired me and that no matter how I was treated I knew I was a good person… largely influenced by Kobe never caring what others thought.

My family was always so supportive of my love of all things Kobe and the positive ways it impacted me, which I will forever appreciate. This culminated in my family planning a trip to LA so my dad and I could go see my favorite player Kobe Bryant play live during his prime in March 2008. We were there for a week so the first night he fouled out with 27 points early against the Charlotte Bobcats, but it was still amazing.

However, the next night… the next night was just magical.  Kobe had so many more 50 points games than everyone else except Wilt Chamberlain that there were literally shirts being sold with all the dates of the nights he scored 50. I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada so this was really special for me and in classic Kobe fashion he put on a show scoring 53 points on the Grizzlies with a young Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay going up against him.

I was in pure and utter awe and joy as Kobe gave my dad and I one of our best memories. Kobe went on to win MVP that year after the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol and I got to see my favourite player in his prime, something I am more grateful for now than ever. That summer, Kobe played in the 2008 Olympics on a team with up and coming stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. Everyone on that team was simply amazed, blown away and changed forever by Kobe and his work ethic.

The Olympic team (yes, the best players in the world) would often practice at 11, but they began noticing Kobe was always dripping in sweat by then. He let them know that he got his first workout in at seven lifting weights and had been putting up shots in the gym since then.  All the players were amazed realizing they needed to step their game up as LeBron, D-Wade, Melo, and others have credited this moment for changing their work ethics as they realized they had to be working… or else they were being outworked by Kobe.

Every player playing today has been influenced by Kobe, many directly. By the end of the week, everyone on the Olympic team was working out on Kobe’s regimen as they would go on to win the Gold Medal.

However, before the Olympics Kobe finally made it back to the finals playing against Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics. He lost this round and Shaq performed a playful impromptu diss at a club after this rapping, “You Know How I Be, last week Kobe couldn’t do without me.” Doubt in Kobe had never been higher as it was easy for people to take shots at my belief in him and his greatness and work ethic and perseverance… but my belief had never been stronger. I knew Kobe would come back better than ever to prove his doubters wrong as he always preached turning struggles into victories and boy was I right.

By 2009, Kobe and LeBron were clearly the best players in the NBA. LeBron even said Kobe was the best in the league and said that it was not even close on record as LeBron did not yet have a championship and Kobe had three.

Bryant dazzled in his prime at 31 years old with his mental game, passing ability and basketball IQ stronger than ever and his physical prowess and dunking ability still intact. It was this year where Kobe permeated my life even more as we were requested to do a portfolio in grade 10 on someone we admired. I chose Kobe and got to write the dialogue of a letter his life-long friend and coach for all championships, Phil Jackson would say to him… I made a poem (“It looked like a bird flyin’, but there was no lyin’, this was Kobe Bryant”.), I wrote the dialogue I thought Paul Pierce and Kobe would have before their finals tip-off, picked “Remember the Name”, by Fort Minor as the song to represent Kobe at the time, and five pictures of him that meant a lot to me.

Kobe vs. LeBron became the Biggie vs. 2Pac for my generation as many of my friendships and times in high school, before and beyond were spent discussing Kobe. People always had something to say and could see my passion for talking about him, so this was always one of the easiest ways for me to connect with people and something I am proud to be known for.

In fact, after they told us our marks didn’t matter until twelve grade as my work ethic went more into my social life than school for a short period, I didn’t read a book one time before a test. The book was called Generals Die in Bed and all I knew was that it was about the war and the main character’s name was Fry.  I had no idea what to do… but I knew I could passionately talk about Kobe. So that’s what I did… I wrote 2 pages on how Kobe preparing for a game was like Fry preparing for a battle and somehow, I nearly got an A.

I loved chatting with everyone in school about how they thought Kobe wouldn’t win a championship and I was confident in 2009 that he would come back more motivated than ever and win his first without Shaq. Lil’ Wayne shared his belief as he released a song I hope gains more traction now on how Kobe was about to win his fourth championship and had the team in place to do so with Kobe’s favorite teammates and friends Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol amongst others.

“Goin’ for the fourth ring like it was his first”, rapped Lil’ Wayne over samples of the entire league discussing Kobe’s greatness and why he was the best player in the league. What makes this song special is that Lil’ Wayne was the biggest, most famous rapper in the world while Kobe was the biggest, most famous athlete in the world in 2009 as this now stands as a truly special cultural moment in time.

Kobe would go on to absolutely dominate the finals winning the championship that year. The night he won my friends and I studied for a math exam while watching Kobe win his first without Shaq, proving all doubters wrong as Kobe won his first finals MVP award, the first time the award was handed out named after Kobe’s idol and friend 11-time champion and ‘60s legend Bill Russell. There was no greater feeling than showing up to school for the exam that morning with people who doubted Kobe, friends and seemingly everyone congratulating me saying it was awesome while I wore my Kobe jersey. Love him or hate him, you had to respect the man’s greatness and work ethic, which I followed first hand. It was just so special that everyone knew that was my guy.

The following year, Kobe was a defending champ for the first time in a while and he lit the league up hitting six game-winners in a single season. It felt like he could go off any night and you always knew that you were getting the best Kobe could give you. I watched most of the 7-game rematch between the Lakers and Celtics in the Finals that year in my Nonna’s room, but for the 7th game, I went to a friend’s house filled mostly with Celtics fans who wanted to see Kobe lose. This would not stop me from showing up in my Kobe jersey cheering as loud as I could because Kobe represented those of us who were different and wanted to work hard to achieve their greatest personal success as this mentality scares people, but Kobe played a large part in teaching me how to use the Mamba Mentality to overcome the naysayer mentality… while also winning one more than Shaq.

This game was so inspiring as Kobe literally played with his fingers taped up on a broken index finger, which would force most players to sit out. Kobe knew this and passed the final shot to Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, as Kobe always knew when to make the right play. Metta hit the shot as I jumped up screaming and celebrating as loud as I could in the face of the Celtics fans as this wasn’t just a win for Kobe, but a win for me standing up for what I believe in.

This would be Kobe’s fifth and final championship on June 17th, 2010… the same day one of my favorite movies Toy Story 3 was released, an epic tale about a young man going off to college having to gracefully move on from things he valued in childhood while always holding them near… a message that feels all too real as reality sets in and as I was moving onto my next chapter.

In 2011 I started my next chapter, which was a business degree and I held on even tighter to Kobe as he was one of the only things from my childhood. Kobe was still one of the best players in the league so I watched him religiously in University. What many forget and what Kobe said on record was that the 2012-13 season, his 17th year in the league at 34 years old was arguably Kobe at his best.  He had the nickname Vino at this time saying he got better with age just like a fine wine.

The Lakers had just acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to play alongside Kobe, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, but Dwight was not yet recovered from back surgery and Nash was injured nearly half the season as the Lakers got off to a shockingly dismal start after being championship favorites. At the 2013 All-Star game, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith proclaimed there was no way the Lakers would make the playoffs halfway through the season after starting off badly, which led to Kobe Bryant GUARANTEEING they would make the playoffs and when Kobe Bryant said something you could be damn sure he would not leave one stone unturned making sure that it happened if he had anything to say about it.

This is when Kobe went supernova regularly compiling triple-doubles averaging nearly 30 points, eight assists and eight rebounds over this stretch morphing into the most complete basketball player we had ever seen him be winning games seemingly by himself playing more minutes than anyone in the league at 34 years old in his 17th season. Somehow as I turned 20, my childhood hero, from when I was three was still lighting up the league.

During this stretch Kobe hit game-winning dunks and 40 point, 12 assist performances seemingly all the time providing some of his best career highlights during this legendary stretch.

This included a game where Mark Cuban said the Lakers should amnesty Kobe to save money just to get headlines.  Kobe proceeded to score 37 points that night including a game-winner against Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks as Kobe tweeted out, “Amnesty That”, right after getting twitter.  One of my favorite last memories with my Nonna was watching Kobe hit a clutch dunk over two Brooklyn defenders, a play so iconic in Kobe’s career that it was recreated through animation in his Oscar-winning short film and goodbye to the sport he loved so much, “Dear Basketball”.

A personal favorite memory I got to watch that season was when Kobe hit four clutch shots and a game-winner in the same game on March 8th, 2013 against the Raptors. Being a Kobe fan in Canada was not easy and I still loved the Raptors, but the Lakers were my favorite team, Kobe was my dude, and everyone knew this. Some friends from business school invited me over to watch the Lakers-Raptors game that night with their friends and those who hadn’t met me yet or seen me in a while were SHOCKED to see me in a Kobe jersey for the Raptors game. When I said I’m a die-hard Kobe fan some people shrugged but mostly respected and understood. The Raptors were set to win and the game looked over… until Kobe Bryant took over in a way I’ve never seen before.

Kobe hit a 3-point shot jumping to the side right in a defender’s face with about a minute left. The Lakers had about 30 seconds after the Raptors scored and within a second of getting the ball Kobe hit the quickest three you will ever see. The Raptors got the ball back and then the Lakers had the ball with about three seconds left as Kobe pump-faked one defender out of his shoes and hit a shot with barely any time left to bring the game into overtime as I shouted with joy and everyone else around me was in pure disbelief at just how amazing this guy was after all these years.

Finally, Kobe hit a game-winning dunk with about 10 seconds left in overtime to win the game as they played the music Michael Jordan came out to in Space Jam and it was then I realized… I had found and grown up with my own version of Michael Jordan as Kobe once again taught me to be myself and stick with my beliefs no matter what anyone else thought culminating in me acing my Statistics 2000 exam a few days later.

Then came April 12th, 2013 as Kobe had scored 47 the game before playing nearly the entire game for multiple games to will his team into the playoffs, but his 34-year-old body could not hold out any longer in his maniacal quest for greatness.  On this night after scoring 32 points against the Golden State Warriors in a must-win game, Kobe collapsed doing a move he’s done thousands of times massaging his heel trying to walk it off, but unable to get more than a limp in as this man was literally walking around on a torn Achilles heel.

Kobe is such a warrior himself that he tried to pop his heel back in, but this time Kobe could not outwork his surroundings. In one of sports most iconic moments, which the great Tiger Woods reflected on when discussing Kobe the day he passed (so hard to write that), Kobe limped to the free-throw line and hit two free throws with tears in his eyes and a torn Achilles heel forever inspiring people around the world as these two free throws proved necessary to win the game and complete Kobe’s guarantee from earlier that season as the Lakers made their way into the playoffs… just without the man who fulfilled his guarantee to get them there.

Kobe got injured right after he returned the following season, but in 2014-15 even though the Lakers stunk Kobe was balling out at one point leading the league in scoring at 36 years old. The fact that he at one point led the league in scoring at both 21 and 36 years old and multiple times throughout that stretch is a testament to Kobe’s longevity, tenacity, grit and how culturally relevant he was throughout the entire run.

When I lost my Nonna in 2014 and my mom was on a hospital bed in 2015 as we didn’t know if she’d survive a random, potentially fatal disease it was an extremely tough time for me and I watched Kobe highlights every single day to get me through it and have hope and perseverance that my family needed me to maintain my positive nature and I needed to do it for myself. My mom did get better, but I grieved my Nonna for a long time as I still do.  Kobe deeply helped me with that process as so many wonderful life lessons and the spirit of perseverance she embodied through losing 90 percent of her hearing at age 3, yet still playing the piano, reading multiple books a week, publishing nutrition articles, poetry, being an avid sports fan and someone who inspires me every day even still, reminded me that some of my favorite memories were watching basketball with her and I can’t help but acknowledge the similar quality of persevering against all odds.

That summer I continued my daily dose of Kobe highlights to help me grieve in 2015 and began realizing that this would be Kobe’s 20th year and quite possibly his last. I had this strange feeling that as I was entering the last year of my business degree and planning to try out my creative nature at film school in Toronto leaving my hometown while also seeing that Kobe was foraying into film… the man I felt so tied to for much of my life would probably hang it upright as my formal education in my hometown came to an end.  I had this feeling, so I bought league pass… and watched all 82 of Kobe’s games in his final season!

He lit it up his first game, but the magic was fleeting as Kobe’s body was clearly breaking down and it became clear the Lakers did not have a championship roster.

I’ll never forget the day when I was at the Grey Cup (Canadian Football’s Superbowl) as it was in Winnipeg that year and I got a notification on my phone that Kobe had just released a retirement poem entitled “Dear Basketball”, as I went home early from the Grey Cup and could not have been more pumped to watch Kobe’s game that night. Kobe was smiling, having fun as all the legends were coming up to pay their respects.

My dog Creamy was 15 by this point and throughout the season I had an eerie sense of finality and knew I should enjoy my time with Creamy too, who I watched so many Laker games with and who I could never forget that I got the same week my favorite player I’d looked up to for four years at the time won his first championship in 2000.

Kobe was retiring, I knew it would happen soon as they were already celebrating his 20 seasons, but now it was official and the terrible Lakers roster became a joy to watch every night as there was no hope of making the playoffs, but everyone could enjoy and appreciate Kobe.  Kobe was hated by most teams… because he is the only player in NBA history to drop 40 points on every team he ever played against.

This means at one time or another he destroyed every single NBA fanbase except the Los Angeles Lakers. If Kobe wasn’t on your team, he was probably demolishing them and this is why even though I am a Lakers fan, I love many NBA teams and players… because if you got upset at great performances against your team… you missed out on a chance to appreciate greatness.

I watched every single game of Kobe’s final season while finishing my business degree and spending as much time watching with my 15-year-old (105 in dog years) furry, white, Havanese friend Creamy as much as I could. Each game was this epic tribute to my favorite player. I always say the NBA is my favorite show as each year there is a new season, with new characters and our favorites growing older. Basketball has no helmets as you truly see the players grow up with their facial expressions changing in how they react to situations as they mature and develop. Kobe was my favorite character on my favorite TV show and in this season every episode was dedicated to him.

The tributes and moments along the way in this final season were epic as many thought he had no good performances left, but I knew that when the time was right, he would rise to the occasion. In fact, when people started saying Kobe was one of the worst players in the NBA that year I made an unthinkable move and bet my friend Kobe would score 40 by the end of the season. Kobe had an incredible dunk on Clint Capela for the final posterization of his storied career the night I finished my Corporate Finance 2 final exam, an alley-oop dunk that made it feel like he was 19 again against the Sacramento Kings and an awesome 38-point performance where he hit 7 3s and hit a patented Kobe game-clinching shot against Andrew Wiggins to put them up for good against the Minnesota Timberwolves… the night after I made that bet.

Some of the best tributes include his younger teammates being in awe that Michael Jordan did a three-minute video dedicated to Kobe as Jordan rarely speaks publicly and Kobe’s high school coach along with Philadelphia 76ers great Julius Erving coming out in the first official road game of his farewell tour in Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to present him his current number on his high school jersey in a plaque. Perhaps the greatest Kobe tribute was Magic Johnson introducing Kobe and a video with all the NBA talking about how Kobe inspired them.

One game against the San Antonio Spurs, one of Kobe’s greatest rivalries, Kobe dislocated his finger, had it popped back into place and scored immediately after this near the end of the game at 37 years old. Multiple articles came out saying he was not human, and I took great pride in having followed someone who defied imagination this many times.

I was very fortunate that I got to see Kobe play six times in my life. The first two were in ’08 previously mentioned, which included his 53 points against the Grizzlies.  The third time I saw Kobe was in the very special, “guarantee”, 2012-2013 season with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash as he scored 27 points in a game against the Portland TrailBlazers. This season my parents knew I was watching all 82 games even bringing my laptop if I was going out sometimes as I knew I’d never get to see my childhood hero play ball again, but after hearing me talk about Kobe almost every day for most of my life my family had become fans as well. I’d turned my Dad into a basketball fan, one of my greatest accomplishments and he wanted to see Kobe’s last game vs. LeBron with me.

I lived for Kobe vs. LeBron matchups marking them on my calendar especially since they were often around my birthday and this would be their final time playing together, two of the greatest players of all time whose whole careers I’d watched. We booked this trip specifically because the Cavs and Knicks were in town consecutively so I knew that I would get to watch Kobe’s last game against Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James, two of my all-time favorite players, who will also play in the first Laker game since Kobe’s untimely death. Kobe and Lebron went at each other nearly every play that game as Kobe played like the Kobe of old, rising to the occasion, outscoring Lebron, faking him out in the post like he was a third-grader before scoring on him and hitting threes in his face. They knew what the fans wanted and put on one last show.

For the game against the Knicks I got my mom and sister out so they could see why this guy meant so much to me. Phil Jackson was at the game, who my parents knew and this tribute to him and to Kobe meant a lot. Kobe hit a huge shot near the end, and I was so happy my family got to see Kobe be Kobe for a second even if it wasn’t in a win. Seeing him hug Melo and LebBon on the court for the last time meant so much then and it will take a long time to set in how much more it means now.

At this moment I thought the Knicks game would be my last time seeing Kobe, but I forgot how much my parents had seen me grow and develop and discuss Kobe as I achieved accomplishments in my own life. There’s nothing more important to me than being a good person, being a good son, brother and friend having the opportunity to impact the lives of others and make them feel great. You’ll face a lot of adversity in your life with this mentality, but in some moments,  you just win and it feels awesome. As my Winnipeg schooling career closed in my final University Days that lasted from 1996-2016, the same timeframe as Kobe’s career, my parents let me know they got me a single ticket to go see Kobe’s final game as a graduation gift.

Wouldn’t you know it that Kobe’s final game was the day after I would finish my last exam of my business degree. For Kobe’s final road game of his career, I watched it in my Nonna’s room with Creamy just like the old days even though she was gone. I also had to study for my exam after as Creamy was acting strange and made me hold him in my arms while studying almost as though he knew it was a special night for me. To that final exam the next day I wore my Kobe jersey and Lakers hat as Kobe represented hard work, success, and celebration as I finished my business degree.

As soon as the exam was over, I flew to L.A. for a solo getaway talking about Kobe with and meeting as many people as possible including the person I sat next to on the plane who saw Kobe have a touching moment with his wife at a Tony Robbins event. This whole trip I talked to so many random people who shared my love of Kobe with me as he was retiring, from the hotel employees when I got there to any Uber driver I met.

The following day was time to prepare for what is now the greatest moment of my life so far, Kobe’s final game.  People were saying, “how great would it be if he can put up 30.” Meanwhile, I had watched all Kobe’s postgame press conferences that year including him revealing his love of Disney and Harry Potter to the point where he had a dog named Crucio named after a curse in Harry Potter so I knew that Shaquille O’Neal challenged Kobe to score 50 to which Kobe replied, “Naw man, I’m too old.  Maybe in 2K”.  It was so chaotic it took an hour to get in with tickets as most fans missed his warm-up.

When I arrived at Staples Center it was like the outside had been transformed into Disney World for Kobe with pictures and videos of #8 and #24 Kobe all around Staples Center and outside. There were inflatable shrines to Kobe, I got to stand within a few feet of his five championships and everyone there just like me was there to pay respects to their childhood hero not knowing we would see one last epic performance to inspire us all again for life. That arena was like a review of my entire childhood as I sat in the third row behind Jay-Z seeing Kanye West, Jack Nicholson, Snoop Dogg, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Levine, The Weeknd, David Beckham and more show their support for Kobe.

The night began with Magic Johnson calling him the greatest Laker of all time as an eight-minute video tribute showed every star I had ever watched play and some of the all-time greats showing admiration for Kobe, as well as coach Phil Jackson and long-time Lakers fan Jack Nicholson talking about how he inspired them as humans and as basketball players that once again felt like an emotional review of my childhood. Somehow it was time for a game as every celebrity you could imagine from Jack Black and Justin Bieber to Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg, to Paula Abdul, David Beckham and Alexander Ovechkin paid tribute on-screen to Kobe and what he meant to them and how he inspired them in their craft throughout the night.

Kobe was human and after such an open display of love, affection and pure celebration he had the human jitters and missed his first five shots. Kobe then got a block on defense which sparked a tough shot near the net… and Kobe hit his next five shots as people were erupting with joy and his teammates looked like little kids in awe on the court. After the first quarter, Kobe had 15 points and I said to the person I met that night, who sat next to me, “Hey, he’s on pace for 60.” They laughed and thought I was joking as Kobe had not scored more than 50 points since February 2nd, 2009 when he dropped 61 at Madison Square Garden. Kobe had been riddled by injuries and amassing over 40 seemed improbable… but I watched him score 35 on the Rockets in two quarters a few nights earlier and knew he could bring it out one last time if he wanted to.

At halftime I just stood watching as all the celebrities were like little kids excited to talk with Kobe as it felt like some weird childhood dream seeing Kobe, Kanye, Jay-Z and Baron Davis talking with each other right in front of me with Jay-Z being recently called out by Kanye during a rant on stage while Kanye was not mentally well. This was probably the first time they’d seen each other since and it was Kobe bringing them together.

Kobe continued to pour in buckets in all the ways he always had with sweet dribble moves, deep three-pointers, creative layups, and Kobe’s patented mid-range jumper. He did this all the way up to 37 points going into the fourth quarter and THIS is where the true magic happened. Kobe went on to outscore the Utah Jazz by himself scoring 23 points in that quarter (Michael Jordan’s number), his final quarter of basketball. The Lakers were down by 10 and in true, storybook Hollywood fashion Kobe took over and led them back singlehandedly.  Kobe hit the last five shots of his career with the first three making a game out of it.  Kobe then hit a wild 3-pointer no one should be able to make with just under a minute to tie the game as the arena was roaring with joy.

I took great pride that many Lakers fans said my excitement led them to call me the biggest Kobe fan ever.  One little kid in front of me was joking about my love of Kobe and how excited I was, but by the end of the game, he turned around and gave me a high five as even amongst the world’s biggest Kobe fans everyone around me recognized how much this moment meant to me. Then, with 31 seconds left Kobe hit what is now possibly the greatest game-winner of all-time with his final field goal to put the Lakers up for good as the arena erupted with pure elation and celebration.

Snoop Dogg was dancing, Jay-Z was smiling, cheering and clapping, Kanye smiled for possibly the first time of the decade and Shaq was smiling in disbelief as Kobe surpassed Shaq’s challenge making the biggest stars look like wide-eyed little kids in a way only Kobe could. Kobe was your favorite athlete and favorite celebrity’s favorite athlete and celebrity.

Kobe went to the free-throw line with 58 points as the whole world and arena were able to stop and appreciate Kobe taking two final shots where he also scored his first NBA points. My breath was shaking, my body was shaking, and I could sense Kobe once again left everything on the floor, but I needed Kobe to make these shots and get to 60. Of course, he did, and the arena was pure celebration as I had a deeply spiritual moment of feeling my Nonna’s presence in a stronger way than I had since she’d passed.

The game ended and there were grief and joy similar to what many are feeling now as Kobe came on the court giving a speech with all his former teammates behind him thanking Lakers fans, his wife who was there and his beautiful daughters Gianna and Natalia as you could truly tell how much his family meant to him.  Kobe spoke beautifully and closed off the speech to a legendary night in a legendary way with two words that I’ll save as I close out this letter.

Unfortunately, a few months after this Creamy turned 16 and I was traveling as I took three flights home to get a half-hour in with my small best friend to say goodbye. Even in an oxygen tank incubator Creamy tried to break out like a young pup, which reminded me so much of Kobe in his last game. My dog Creamy never cared what anyone thought, was a leader for our two other dogs and always did what he wanted. These were qualities I felt Kobe embodied and I watched Kobe highlights every day to grieve even wearing his jersey when I gave a eulogy at my furry best friend’s graveside as watching Laker games with Creamy and the attitude of not caring what others think along with me getting Creamy the week Kobe won his first championship will always make them tied together.

After this, I desired to meet Kobe when I was at film school e-mailing his company once a month and even getting a reply back to message them when I was done film school.  I even got a reply from Jeanie Buss, owner of the Lakers, that she was not comfortable forwarding a business request, but wished me luck. I made projects at film school dedicated to Kobe including a shot of my 9 Kobe jerseys from a number 8 jersey that would barely fit my arm now from when I was five to a number 24 jersey I bought in his final season since the one a family friend gave me was a decade old and starting to look like it as each of these jerseys represents different times in my life.

I even wrote a script about a boy growing up to make a movie with his favorite basketball player winning an Academy Award on stage months before Kobe won his award… my spiritual connection with Kobe ran very deep.

My parents got me a plaque dedicated to Kobe’s last game and career that they found at a Dentist’s office in Winnipeg that I put up in my Toronto apartment as I went to film school.  Everyone there knew my love of Kobe… in fact I felt more obligated to share it and impact people now that he was retired… it was like a piece of my childhood gone, but I knew I was getting into writing and thinking about becoming a financial advisor as I realized the world of film was not where I wanted to start out building my life and career.

I knew Kobe would always follow his instincts and my instincts made me love working with others and impacting them, but for me as a person, I wanted to be able to see the impact through more personal connections.  As an Investment Advisor involved in financial planning who also writes about basketball I feel I am doing this, helping others and having been fortunate to cross paths with a former NBA player who believes in my vision of giving back to NBA players by forming trust-based relationships as I help provide them peace of mind and hopefully one day get to know some great individuals I looked up to giving back to them through my knowledge and continuing to ingrain myself further in these two different careers I love so much finding ways to combine them.

As I start my career now, I’ve become an advisor at a younger age than most with many saying, “you’re too young and should have been on a team-first, that’s what everyone does”, and all I can think of is Kobe hearing people say, “you’re too young. You should have gone to college first, that’s what everyone does”, as I persist even more in the face of adversity in honor of Kobe and what he represented.

That’s why even though I solemnly grieve and barely have the energy to reply to the wonderful outpourings of condolences from friends and family I wrote my longest, most heartfelt article ever and have a prospective client meeting set up to continue pursuing my vision and dreams enjoying the process along the way knowing the success will continue to come as long as I do that and stay true to myself.

Kobe meant so much and meant so much to me that people from all walks of life reached out, from grade school friends to people I met traveling, to the guy I sat next to at the game, to family members from all eras of my life and I can’t begin to express the appreciation I feel for them reaching out now and all the wonderful Kobe conversations I’ve had around the world. Devastated and grateful is exactly how I feel. I feel devastated that the reality has barely sunk in that Kobe Bean Bryant is gone from this Earth as is his wonderful daughter Gianna who he loved and talked about so much.

They were both staples of the NBA this season whenever the two of them went to games together stealing the show as Kobe taught his young daughter about the game. I also feel grateful to have looked up to this man and been inspired by him for my entire life.

Just last week, Kobe was advocating on CNN that there are two or three WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) players who could play in the NBA and that women should play in the NBA… smartly setting the table for his 13-year-old daughter to play in the NBA one day before she tragically perished with her father Kobe Bryant who loved her, his three other daughters and his wife so deeply. This isn’t all Kobe did post-NBA. Kobe has released three books set in a fictional world with magic similar to Harry Potter but combining sports. Kobe went to J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, and many others for advice also hanging pictures of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney in his office to inspire him to achieve greatness.

Kobe wrote a book in early 2019 called, “The Mamba Mentality”, which I was fortunate enough to review for my local newspaper that talked about all his processes and beliefs while being a basketball fan’s dream talking about all his individual rivalries across eras spanning from Michael Jordan to Lebron James, Kevin Durant and more. He discussed stories of tap dancing in the summer when others his age were out partying so he could improve his footwork, brushing his teeth and doing everything with his left hand so he could use his left hand better in games, working out 6 hours a day during the season and barely even sleeping sometimes as he would stay up to watch film. Kobe was different, special and unique.

Kobe also began a $100 million venture capital fund with serial entrepreneur Jeff Stibel, something he began after tearing his Achilles. You can find stories of almost any successful business person or entertainer such as Oprah being cold-called out of nowhere by Kobe and being shocked that he wasn’t just some athlete asking questions, but a serious business person who had done his homework and wanted to make a difference. Kobe invested $6 million in Body Armor, a sports drink which Coca-Cola bought a minority stake in after Kobe made commercials as a creative director with athletes such as James Harden and Odell Beckham Jr… that investment is now worth over $200 million and Kobe got to see his success in yet another industry, where people doubted him, realized.

Some of my main takeaways from Kobe include never letting anyone box you in and not caring what others think.  He always said he was more than a basketball player becoming a New-York Times Best-Selling author, winning an Oscar, becoming an astute businessman with a $100 million venture capital fund and last but not least an 18-time all-star and five-time champion… something almost assuredly no other human will ever be able to say.

This is what inspires me to dream big, being involved as an Investment Advisor and in the world of basketball and maybe bringing film into the mix one day. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few days, it’s that life is unpredictable and you’ve got to live each day the best you can.  That’s how Kobe lived and that’s what he would want.

I always wanted to meet Kobe but accepting I never will, I am grateful that he will always remain as somewhat of a mythological hero to me.  I am both devastated at his passing and more so grateful that I made him such a big part of my life and now as his legacy grows for years to come the rest of the world will learn and know what made Kobe so damn special. To those that did have the honor of meeting him and knowing him, I express sincere condolences and if any of you read this piece, I hope it provides comfort.

My prayers and anyone reading this send their prayers and thoughts to Vanessa, Natalia, Kapri, Bianka, anyone who knew Kobe and the rest of the basketball world that mourns this loss so deeply. Kobe was beloved in many countries and had such a large following in China that I would need a whole other article to get into it.

"“Now, championships come and go. There’s going to be another team that wins another championship, another player that wins another MVP award. But if you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation. And then they create something great, and then that generation will inspire the one behind them. And that’s when you create something forever. And that’s what’s most beautiful.”– Kobe Bryant"

Well, there it is folks… that’s what Kobe wanted his legacy to be and what he did and how we can all enjoy the process of pursuing grander visions and dreams. That’s what inspired me to write this article today while experiencing immense grief at the loss of my childhood and lifelong hero because I can confidently say that Kobe would want us to rally around, grieve when we need to and spend the rest of our lives honoring the greatest part of his legacy by pursuing our goals leaving no stone unturned just as he has.

Thank you, Kobe, for what you’ve given to the lives of so many. In many ways, your legacy has just begun as you will continue to do more with everyone from Barack Obama to Justin Timberlake, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady appreciating the Mamba Mentality during this tough time. You will always continue to inspire me every day in everything that I do and to be the best person, son, brother, (one day father and husband), family member, friend, advisor, writer and more as I continue my life without you here on Earth, but with you watching over us as I always hold your positive values close.

Next. Kobe Bryant: Ranking our 10 favorite moments during his career. dark

If there’s one way to sum up Kobe I would say that Kobe should inspire us all to work as hard as you can to pursue all your goals and dreams no matter what anyone says or thinks about it. I’ll sign out for now with a final Kobe quote and the same way he signed out in his final game after dropping 60 in front of his family. Much love Kobe, forever and always.

"“Mamba Out” – Kobe Bryant"