Dear Mr. Bryant (Pt. 2): A Thank You to My Childhood Idol
Hey Kob, it’s me again.
So this is it, huh? The last ride?
20 years later, and the day I’ve been dreading is finally here.
I’ve known it was coming for a couple years now, but I was in denial.
Now first of all:
This is no goodbye letter.
This isn’t a letter to beg you to change your mind, to convince you that you still got it (I mean, the 35 at Houston? Vintage Mamba.) Lord knows I’d trade any and every one of the healthy muscles and ligaments in my body to watch you play for 10 more years. But with the announcement, you seem to be at peace with the situation, and so am I.
I’ve been telling everyone since the Achilles tear that I’d cry when you retire, but these aren’t tears of sadness, these are tears of happiness, each one a memory out of the maybe thousands I’ve enjoyed over your legendary career.
See, I could go on and on, listing every moment I’ve enjoyed, my favorite highlights, plays, games, records, shots. But that’s been overdone, there’s no need. At this point, all there’s left to say is:
Thank you, for the relentless ambition, the unmatched dedication, the assassin’s mentality, the pure obsession with winning.
For 5 of the 16 golden reasons to be a Laker fan.
For the 33,000+ reasons you’re the greatest to lace up in my memory.
For the 20 glorious years, putting on a show every night for the purple and gold.
For the short rap career – especially the song K.O.B.E. with Tyra that I still swear is a banger.
For the surge of inspiration every time I see the number 24.
For making it so damn hard to pick a memory to immortalize in statue form outside of Staples.
For being a warrior on the court, and a human being off of it – on one side your opponents hated you, but on the other, your fans could only love you more.
Thank you for those days in my backyard, home after my first day at yet another new school, playing shadow basketball where it was you, me and my imagination, playing the Kings/Blazers/Spurs/etc. – forever a reminder, that at those times when I had no friends, I still had you.
For being the reason my mom was always worried when I’d play basketball – throwing my body everywhere on the cement, trying to recreate your dunks and finishes.
For all the scraped knees and bruised elbows, the jammed fingers and rolled ankles that I played through, knowing you’d do the same with all obstacles.
For the fro I tried to grow, and had to settle with spiking my hair.
For being the reason I bite the collar of my jersey during dead balls anytime I play basketball.
For the one, quick deep breath you take before a free throw – something that I picked up and use any (and I mean every) time that I’m nervous.
For every night I spent studying into the late hours of the morning, knowing somewhere out there you just always expected more of me.
For leading me to fall in love with the game of basketball, which then led me to a potential career in healthcare (hopefully somewhere in sports medicine).
Thank you Kobe, for all the 6 for 28 shooting nights, showing me the ugliness of the struggle, that can still end with the beauty of victory – especially ones that come with championships.
And on that note, thank you for never letting those nights stop you, despite what everyone in the media said.
Thank you for being the reason I still enjoy the journey just as much as I do the success (maybe even more), if only for the amazing people that I meet along the way.
Thank you, Kobe, for being not only my childhood idol, but one of my role models to this day.
Thank you, Kobe, for everything.
As a fan, you asked for my support –
I gave you my heart
Because you showed me so much more than you’ll ever know.
And my heart may not be ready to see my childhood hero go, but my mind knows it’s time.
And like you, I’m OK.
Because I’ve learned everything I needed to from you.
This isn’t a goodbye, because for me (and millions of other fans), your legacy will live on as I carry this torch in my own life.
It’s only right that at 24, I can finally accept the finality of your career.
And as we both move on to the new chapters in our lives, I’m ready. For whatever the future has in store. And I know you are too.
But I’ll always be that 8-year old kid posting up in fake slow-motion, sweat band on my bicep, straight splashing a fadeaway in my Nerf hoop to beat the buzzer.
Just like you.