By Mukurima Muriuki
Why would the death of someone I never met hurt this much.
Every death hurts because we are all interconnected as human beings. While not every death brings the world to a standstill, the death of Kobe has seen the same outpouring of grief and emotion, as did the death of Marc Vivien Foe, Princess Diana, and Michael Jackson
When Kobe Bryant made his debut for the Lakers in 1996, he became the youngest player to suit up for a NBA team. In his second season, he was a NBA all star. The sky was no longer the limit, not even the stratosphere could put brakes on his destiny as a great basketball player.
In 2000, in his 4th season in the NBA, Kobe became a world champion, and he would earn the rare 3-peat with two other titles in 2001 and 2002. You may recall his head to head duel with Allen Iverspn in 2001. No team wanted to face a Kobe-led team.
As a Boston Celtics fan, Kobe Bryant broke my heart in 2010 when he unleashed the mamba mentality on the Celtics, leading his team to another championship, which would also mark his last. Kobe Bryant, in 2020, has broken my heart. It’s never easy being a Celtics fan.
Kobe was the quintessential Black Mamba-a nickname that aptly fit him. Black mambas are deadly not only due to the venom they spit, they strike without provocation. In 2006, Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points on Toronto Raptors. There was no antidote on that day, and really, only Father Time healed the mamba’s venom.
In a 2013 game against the Golden State Warriors, Kobe Bryant raptured the Achilles. tendon in his left foot. He had driven past Harrison Barnes, got fouled, but the result was more than a foul. He sat on the floor for more than a minute. Bryant rose from the floor and walked to the bench under his own power, then with tears in his eyes, gingerly walked to the free throw line after the timeout, again under his own will, to shoot the free throws resulting from the foul. In most cases, players with such an injury are carried off the court.
Many sports pundits wrote his basketball eulogy then, saying there was no Wah he was going to come back from the injury. He did, and played 3 more years before retiring.
Kobe touched many people’s lives. He inspired children in forgotten corners of the universe to pick up a basketball. Because of Kobe Bryant, somewhere in Cameroon, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid fell in love with the game. In two weeks, Joel and Pascal will be starting for the Eastern Conference team as All Stars.
Kobe Bryant was a perfectionist while on the court. He demanded the best from his teammates and never settled for mediocre performances. As a leader, he brought everything he had on the court, and gave his all every single game.
Kobe represented the best of basketball in his generation. He took over the torch from Michael Jordan, who had taken over the mantle from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Today, it is the Lebron James show, for he took over the mantle from Kobe. Just this Saturday, Lebron passed Kobe to be the 3rd highest scorer of all time in the NBA.
Just as talented as he was, Kobe was always willing to share his understanding of the game with others, and he met his death going to a basketball game to inspire the next generation of basketball stars. And that gives me comfort, knowing that he died while in pursuit of what he was born to do.
Kobe Bryant was not perfect. As he climbed the mountain of championships, sometimes scarred his knees and broke his skin. He did not let these moments put a pause on his career.
Every great player lives for the day they would be inducted into the Hall of Fame for being the best in business. Kobe was nominated for induction in 2020, but he will be watching from above with Gianna by his side. Your name belongs to Mt. Rushmore.
Kobe Bryant’s book is now complete with 33,644 pages. The sequel starts in heaven.