Open Letter: Thank You, Kobe

“You made me into a believer… Thank you, Kobe.”

On the wake of yesterdays retirement announcement via a touching poem, a young Canadian fan pays homage to the greatest, Mr. Kobe Bryant.


 

Thank You, Kobe.

kobe reverse

“You can’t possibly become better than me because you are not spending the time on it that I do. If you want to spend the time, you can’t because you have other things, you have other things, you have other responsibilities that are taking you away from it. So I already won.”

Hearing that quote for the first time you might think it is from a famous inventor, or politician, or visionary, or maybe even an athlete who is known as the greatest of all time… Not surprisingly, when one subsequently realizes that the quote is from arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, Kobe Bryant (in the 2014 documentary, “Muse“), their whole perception of him can be changed, as mine was the first time I heard this quote.

Growing up in a predominately white, upper-middle class neighbourhood in Western Canada, there was maybe 1 kid on my street played basketball. Besides that, everything was about hockey.

Every Saturday in the cul-de-sac, we would play street hockey. At school we talked about the games from the night before, and pretended to be our heroes at recess. At home we watched hockey every night, and all of my buddies and I played NHL video games to pass the time during the off-season. Basketball, on the other hand, was a distant sport, usually only watched when there was nothing else on TV.

Growing up in this environment, I was always told that Michael Jordan was the best, plain and simple. I was told, others had come close to his greatness but nobody was better than #23. LeBron couldn’t win the big game, Kobe was nothing without Shaq, and Larry Bird had too much talent surrounding him.

—LIKE REDLEAFGOLDTEETH ON FACEBOOK—

I never thought anybody could like a sport as much as I did, until I moved into residence at the U of C, and met this equally as skinny kid named Negele living down the hall in 558. As I got to know him more, I realized he shared my passion for sports, and loved basketball as much, and maybe even more then I loved hockey. Over the last 4 years of our friendship, I have begun to watch more and more basketball with Negele and on my own, and I can confidently say that Kobe Bryant is the main reason I now enjoy basketball.

The passion and emotion enjoyed by #24 (previously known as #8) throughout his career is truly inspiring, and is a major reason I enjoy watching basketball now. Unlike what seems to be 95% of the rest NBA, Kobe was a player that you know was going to give it everything he had, every minute he was playing. He is as intense in the 3rd quarter of a blowout game vs. Milwaukee in November, as he is in the NBA finals against the Celtics, and that kind of unprecedented hunger is rare today in any professional sport. It’s what separates the greats,  from the legends.

The knock I always had on professional basketball was that the players were too concerned about themselves. They were more concerned about making sports center that night for a 2 handed poster dunk, then diving for a ball to save a possession for their team. The dollars were more important then loyalty. But for me, going back and watching Kobe Bryant throughout his career from a 18 year old kid to a 37 year old veteran playing through pain and setbacks,  2 things became clear; The first, is that he bleeds purple and gold of the Lakers that he has been loyal too his entire career; and 2, his whole life revolves around the game that he loves. It has never been about him, it has always been about giving back to the sport, with marvelous MVP performances, and brilliant attests to him greatness.

Before I got into basketball I thought Kobe was just another whiner and complainer. Just like every other over paid athlete, he was more concerned about personal stats and what his/her sport can do to improve their lifestyle, rather than what they can do to improve and influence their sport.

Now, in the wake of the retirement of a personal inspiration, here I am, changed. For me, Kobe Bryant brought a white kid from Canada into the basketball world and he showed the NBA that in a rare case, a player can completely dominate the league for an entire career. Sure, Kobe has averaged 25.3 points/game over his career, but most importantly has demonstrated leadership and a dedication to the sport I wished more athletes had.

You made me into a believer. For leaving me endless memories, both little and big, thank you, Kobe.

Andy.

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