Sterling: Growing up with the legend of Kobe

Growing up in the 2000s, my generation was fortunate enough to witness some of the greatest athletes to ever step foot on a hardwood court. From LeBron James to Stephen Curry, some of the brightest stars of the modern NBA era have provided me with continuous entertainment and an intense, undying love for basketball. 

However, while there are plenty of stars in the NBA, few have the ability to transcend both the sport and life itself. Kobe Bryant was, unquestionably, one of the greatest players to ever grace the sport with their presence. In the post-retirement stage of his life, Kobe gifted the basketball community with his genius insights, advocated for women’s basketball, won an Academy Award, strove for excellence in a variety of fields and invested his soul into his family. 

In his 41 years of life, Kobe did not waste a moment. His forever inspiring “Mamba Mentality” brought him to the top of his profession, and inspired countless others to work as hard as humanly possible to be the best version of themselves they could be. While Kobe is no longer here physically, his ideologies and legend status will never dissipate. 

Whether you love or hate him, Kobe had an unquestionable impact on the global basketball community that few have had before. As the first superstar in the new millennium, his iconic status provided him with a platform that he used to put his unreal work ethic and talent on display. 

My generation was lucky enough to grow up with Kobe as our NBA role model. In the words of University of Oregon junior Jack Travnicek, “Kobe is the person who made me love basketball. I saw him win two championships and have been alive for all five.” Travnicek went on to add that, “He was a real life superhero to me and millions of others that looked up to him.”

Growing up in Portland, I hated the Los Angeles Lakers more than any other team in the NBA. The Trail Blazers were absolutely tormented by Kobe during his 20-year tenure as the greatest Laker of all time. I did not hate him for who he was, but for his dominance as a basketball player. Teams and individual players had to be at the top of their games to even imagine outplaying Kobe. His competitive spirit made some of the best athletes in the world resemble JV high school players.

Kobe had an invincible aura to him. This makes his untimely death much harder to comprehend. I have never known life without Kobe being a star. I was born two years after Kobe entered the league, when he was already showing the world what he was capable of. As a kid, my friends and I would argue over who got to wear number 24 when we received our basketball jerseys. When we played pickup basketball, we pretended to be either Kobe or LeBron. “He is the reason I yell ‘Kobe’ anytime I try to throw garbage in a trash can,” said Travnicek.

Even after his tragic passing, Kobe’s legacy will never die. He inspired multiple generations of people, both in and outside of the basketball world. We as a society will not let him be forgotten. His impact on pop culture, basketball and so much more will always remain strong.