Sunday broke the news of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and along with 7 other people. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “This can’t be happening. Is this some kind of joke?” I am in denial, still trying to process all of this. We see stars, actors, actresses, famous people pass away from time to time, but this one is different.

Heir to Jordan

Michael Jordan was the face of basketball in the 90s. I grew up idolizing him. Everybody that played basketball stuck their tongue out (the famous moment when Jordan dunked) and wore his shoes (still popular to this day). Once Jordan retired, the question was, who’s the next Jordan?

Then, came this 18-year old kid from Philadelphia named Kobe Bryant. At first, he wasn’t great because he didn’t play a lot. When he did, he shot airballs and people criticized him for taking these ridiculous shots. This only drove him to work harder. These bad shots became the regular shots he made. He did things that Jordan did. Making fadeaway shots over 2 or 3 defenders. Unthinkable layups and dunks that electrified the crowd. He was must-watch TV. There were many players that were considered the next Jordan, but Kobe was far leading the race.

He was like family

It wasn’t like I knew the guy or met him in person. But, I grew up watching Kobe. From his rookie year to him retiring in 2016. Twenty years of watching a boy grow up to a loving husband/father and a savvy entrepreneur. Countless of Laker watching parties. Yelling, praising, screaming, and getting angry at Kobe. But, he had this charisma that captivated you. Couldn’t take your eyes off him because you were curious about what he was going to do next. I guess if you watch somebody for so long, you feel a sense of closeness and that was Kobe for me.

Purpose outside of basketball

Who has a Hall of Fame career, plays for one team for 20 years, retires, then wins an Oscar? Kobe. Then, creates a sports academy for youth athletes. His brand, “Mamba Sports Academy” was going to dominate the industry. His other investment, Body Armor, was challenging the sports drinks industry giant Gatorade. He was in the process of publishing a children’s book series. This guy was doing it all. And most importantly, enjoying being a father/husband.

Most sports athletes go into broadcasting. But, Kobe disappeared from the media after his Laker career. It wasn’t until his daughter got into basketball that his face resurfaced in media. You could see Kobe courtside with his daughter, him teaching her what he sees. He wasn’t at Lakers game much, but when he did, you could see he was enjoying life after basketball. Smiling and enjoying time with family. Just being a loving husband and father. This guy was loving his next chapter after basketball.

His willingness to outwork anybody

Kobe used to be the first guy in the gym and shoot thousands of shots before Laker games. Then, he would be the last guy out of the gym practicing after the games. And that will always be the thing I will remember Kobe about. He wasn’t the most physically talented, fastest, or best passer, but his willingness to outwork anybody made him the player and human being he was. Always willing to be the best at what he did. His word for this determination was “mamba mentality.” That was something I always believed in and related to. And that is why I chose “grit” for my gym, because that is what it takes to get to where you want to be. Thank you for all the great memories and may you rest in peace with your daughter and all the other angels. You will be truly missed!

Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog. Stay tuned for more next Wed…………..Kei

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