This weekend, Kobe Bryant announced that this will be his final season. Basketball fans will miss him, but we have a special kind of affection for him. Not only did he play on the Lakers for his whole career, he has shown a lot of respect for the Latino community. Since childhood, he has spoken fluent Spanish, and has always repped his love for soccer.
We’re grateful for him, so here are five reasons we’ll miss Black Mamba.
He's got trophies for days.
The past few seasons have been injury-plagued and just plain frustrating, but there was a time when Kobe was killing it. He’s a five-time NBA Champion and a two-time Finals MVP. All in all, he appeared in the All-Star game 17 times during his long career. We could cite a thousand different stats to prove his excellence, but let’s just stick to the fact that he’s third place on the NBA’s all-time points scoring list. The fourth spot? A guy named Michael Jordan.
He's a leader, on both ends of the court.
If you look at basketball today, you’ll find plenty of players who can score, but when it comes to defending, many look to their opponents for guidance. Not the case with Kobe. He was selected twelve times for the league’s All-Defensive Team and nine times for the All-Defensive First Team, tying him with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Gary Payton for the most in NBA history. Let’s not forget the fact that he played for the same team for his entire career, showing teammates he was willing to face the bad as well as the good. If that’s not leadership, then nothing is.
He was the face of the league, for both lovers and haters.
After the great MJ, no other player had bigger TV appeal than Kobe. The 2004 NBA Finals, a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons, is the highest-rated since Jordan’s last Finals appearance in 1998. Of course, this has a lot to do with him playing in Los Angeles, but no other player during his tenure drew fans and haters to the TV like Black Mamba did. From 2000 to 2010, the only four Finals that drew double-digit TV ratings all had one star in common: Kobe Bryant.
He was the father of this generation.
Today’s high-scoring basketball game wouldn’t be the same without Kobe Bryant’s presence. Not only did he set the precedent for the high school to NBA route, which many followed later, but in a way, he also modeled the way today’s game is played. His 81-point performance against the Raptors is something the likes of Lebron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant will always chase after.
You could argue that Tim Duncan has been more consistent, or that Jordan was a better player, but you can’t deny that the guys in today’s game grew watching him play. Like Paul George said, “Kobe was my Jordan.”
He took the game seriously.
Kobe wasn’t just a competitive beast, he didn’t care for frivolity. He was a mentor for young players, but he never supported celebration without merit. This appearance on Jimmy Kimmel proves how important was basketball for him.