On January 27th 2020, I had to get up extra early for my usual Monday morning basketball practice with my university team. Normally, everyone was busy shaking off the drowsiness, but our spirit on the court was usually high, as that practice, in the quiet of dark campus before any lectures started, was ours to enjoy and get better. That day though, it felt as if the death of Kobe Bryant sucked the air out of the gym. No one was warming up, barely any balls were bouncing, everyone of my teammates was in a state of stupor, aimlessly looking around as if they forgot what we were there for. Some were close to fighting off tears while others questioned whether we should call off the practice entirely.
But it didn’t take long to realize that the only way was to move forward, to keep going and play the game we loved while trying to process the loss of a man none of us had even ever met, but felt so close to. A man we thought to be invincible.
Who was Kobe Bryant ?
Kobe Bryant played 20 years in the NBA, with the Los Angeles Lakers. During these two decades, he went from being a 17-year-old phenom to five-time champion, Nike signature athlete, League MVP in 2008, and retired in 2016 as a Hall of Famer. One of the greatest and most iconic global athletes of all time, he was only just beginning the second chapter of his life, a prolific period that was tragically cut short when a helicopter carrying Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others crashed in Calabasas, killing everyone on board.
While we briefly got to know what his post-basketball career would mean to the world, Kobe’s legacy as an athlete is undoubtedly leaving a lasting impact. Beyond his on-court skills, he is and will be remembered for having one of the greatest work ethics and most brilliant minds the sport world has ever witnessed. A borderline obsession to be the best in every aspect of the game that pushed his mind and body to the limit others wouldn’t dare to venture.
Kobe was unlike any other. The almost cannibalistic fury with which he ate everything: the court, opponents, teammates, coaches, the audience, the ball. Whatever stood between him and his goal would be overwhelmed: the obsession with victory, the pursuit of perfection, that grin, the Mamba, the agonism that was aggression in full force, the ontological impossibility of defeat. "Leadership is loneliness," he said in an interview, and that is how he lived, above everything and everyone, irreducible, thinking only of victories and posterity, temporarily together with teammates and fans, ultimately alone.