(Remembering Kobe second part)
Victor Oladipo shot a three-point shot in his first game of the season for the Indiana Pacers. When asked about the shot, all he said was: “I had to take it — Mamba Mentality.” He broke into tears and walked away.
Mamba Mentality is now the mantra of the world. As sportswriter and podcast king Bill Simmons noted, there has never been a sports death that has affected the world this much. Simmons is a huge Boston Celtics fan who resides in LA. He has criticized Kobe for the longest time, but he is in awe of the tributes being showered.
NFL players are claiming inspiration from Kobe, tennis stars at the Australian Open are wearing his jersey. It simply shows the transcendent appeal of one Kobe Bean Bryant.
There are those who hate Kobe more than they love sports, and they will bring up the rape allegation. We cannot deny or ignore that it happened. We cannot be the judge on what happened, and there were also testimonies and evidence in favor of Bryant.
Still, in the law as in basketball, a charge is a charge.
Did Kobe show proper remorse? The accuser has not emerged anymore, and moved on. Kobe owes an apology to his family, more than his fans. His wife almost divorced him, but gave him a second chance. This is what we know as part of the public.
They had three more daughters since then, and we are privy to their happiest moments in Instagram and other social media. This is what we are given, this is what we remember.
Did Kobe redeem himself as a husband and a father? The only people who can answer that are Vanessa Bryant and her daughters.
The settlement of the case meant that he is free to do his job again. It was not the #MeToo era yet, and the only basis for restricting him was a judicial conviction. There was no such thing in Bryant’s case.
Business as usual brought the Lakers back to the NBA Finals, but the expected dream run was foiled by the Detroit Pistons. It eventually led to a public spat with Shaquille O’ Neal. As they say, winning solves everything. When they unexpectedly lost to Detroit, the internal power struggle unraveled.
The Lakers had to choose whether it’s Shaq’s team or Kobe’s team, a turning point for the city. When Shaq won a title in Miami with Dwayne Wade, Kobe’s competitive nature spewed, and he was hell-bent on winning a title in LA to prove they made the right choice.
The year 2008 was defining for Kobe: the Lakers finally got him a partner in Pau Gasol. They returned to the Finals against former arch-rival Boston Celtics, but they lost.
The rest of the year worked out well — Kobe got his first, and surprisingly, only MVP award for someone who was arguably the best in the game for half a decade. He also led the Redeem Team in Beijing, where he gained the respect of his peers: LeBron, Melo, Wade, CP3, and Howard to name a few.
More than trophies and accolades, and even public acclaim, what athletes will treasure is the respect of their peers. I haven’t seen so many (huge) grown men cry since that Monday morning.
The Boston Celtics fans said it best in a tweet: “When Kobe retired, we thought he will never break our hearts again. We were wrong.”
I hated Doc Rivers, as he coached Boston in 2008 and now, the LA Clippers. When he tearfully admitted that he and Kobe were now close, I realized that Kobe’s competitiveness was all for the game. When the final buzzer sounds, they were all brothers to him.
Former Laker Lou Williams confided that he told Kobe: “I know your game. You act like a jerk to gain respect as a competitor, but you’re one of the nicest guys in the world.”
This is how Kobe will be remembered by those who knew him.
The tears are real—athletes are bad actors. They can only fool bad referees.