A Tribute to Kobe Bryant

I met Kobe Bryant back in 1996 during his rookie year. I was an Eddie Jones fan, and my friend Patricia and I heard that Eddie and Kobe were signing autographs in Old Town Pasadena. So we made our way over there to get our basketballs signed.

When we got there, Eddie was happily signing while Kobe looked a bit annoyed. Eddie Jones was an all-star already and Kobe was just establishing himself in the league. His demeanor turned me off, and I passed on getting his autograph after Eddie signed my ball. I regret that decision to this day.

As the season moved forward, Eddie Jones and Kobe were both vying for the same spot. Both were shooting guards and had to share their time on the court. Three years later, Eddie Jones is traded and I blame Kobe.

I was a huge Kobe hater, I didn’t like his flash or his sass or his ego. These feelings only increased when Kobe blocked Jordan in the all-star game, I felt like he had not shown proper deference to a legend.

Then the Kobe and Shaq era began and I started warming up to him, who doesn’t like a winner? I was a Kobe fan at last.

But then Shaq left amid rumors that he and Kobe did not get along and Kobe could not share the spotlight. Again, I blamed Kobe because I loved Shaq.

And then the big one, Colorado. More reasons to condemn Kobe. Maybe it does not make sense, our relationships to celebrities who we can never really know are always complicated, but it was how Kobe handled the aftermath of his fall from grace.

This blog is not really about what happened in Colorado. Lots of other people are writing about that. Suffice to say, I think enormous doubt surrounds what actually happened there and even if the worst of the allegations are true, I am a criminal defense attorney and I try to live by the maxim that we are all more than the sum of our worst moments.

Kobe redefined himself after Colorado. Even while I continued to hate him, he slowly earned my respect. More than anything, it was his absolutely relentless work ethic. Few people are born with Kobe’s talent, fewer still refuse to be content with such amazing God-given talent. Kobe was one of the rare few who pushed himself to get everything he could out of his body and the game, to never settle. He created a legacy that changed the mind of naysayers. The measure of a man is how he handles adversity as well as his mistakes.

I believe Kobe learned from his fall from grace. He became a better basketball player, a better man, a better husband, and probably most importantly, an amazing father. He fought for equality in women’s sports and became a doting soccer and basketball dad. I feel as if I grew up with him, my children grew up idolizing him, born after Colorado was no longer the first thing people talked about when they talked about Kobe Bryant.

Jo-Kai followed Gianna on Instagram and studied the way she played and how it compared to Kobe. When I coached Jo-Kai’s basketball team, I studied Kobe and Phil Jackson and their relationship and preached the “mamba mentality” to my players. I feel I’ve learned so much from that man.

Living in Orange County, my family and I would also see him around from time to time at church or just out and about. It’s hard to not feel connected to him and his family. He was so much larger than life. I’ve been devastated since hearing what happened. My heart goes out to everyone whose lives were lost and their families. Kobe was my age and Gianna was Jo-Kai’s age. It’s difficult to not draw a connection. Life is so fleeting.

Love and respect to the GOAT from a converted hater. #mambamentality #GOAT #24 #8 #2 #mambacitaandmambaforever