Remembering Kobe Bryant

As the sports world comes to terms with his unexpected passing, I take a look back at the life and career of one of the greatest and most polarising players in NBA history.

Kobe ‘Bean’ Bryant was one of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.

I say that in the knowledge that he was one of the most divisive players of his generation. Some loved him. Others loathed him. But no matter what side of that particular fence you’re on, his will to succeed, his inhuman work ethic and his sheer determination to be the best is something that cannot be denied by anybody who had the fortune to see him play.

Whether it’s the 81-point outburst against Toronto, the time that he outscored the entire Mavericks team over three quarters by himself, or the fourth-quarter comeback against the Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, every NBA fan remembers witnessing Kobe Bryant do something we all thought was unthinkable.

Amassing 33,643 points over the course of a career spanning two decades, he attained five NBA titles as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also the winner of the regular-season MVP award, two-time winner of the NBA Finals MVP award, and he produced the second-highest scoring total by one player in a single game when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors in 2006.

Stories of Bryant’s work ethic from other players and former teammates litter the internet, each one attesting to the fact that there was nobody more dedicated to honing their craft than Kobe Bryant, like this story as told by CBS:

“In 2007, O.J. Mayo was the top recruit at Bryant’s Kobe Basketball Academy. Mayo asked Kobe to work out with him and Bryant graciously accepted. Kobe said he’d pick him up at three. After Bryant failed to show up, Mayo asked Kobe what happened. “Three in the morning,” Kobe replied. “Not three in the afternoon.”

Stories like these, and one which saw a 19-year-old Kobe punch the 7'1, 320-pound Shaquille O’Neal because Kobe felt that he was being lazy, are what demonstrate the inhuman nature of Kobe’s work ethic. If you weren’t the second hardest working player in the gym, you weren’t even on his radar. He had no time for people who wouldn’t put in the work. Not that he ever viewed basketball as ‘work’.

Remember Kobe Bryant. Not just for his accolades and achievements. Remember him for his hard work and his passion, and his determination to win. This is the guy who tore his Achilles and went back on the court to shoot his free throws. Remember him for showing the world that it takes more than talent, that if you’re truly dedicated to being the best at what you do then you have to put in the work and make some sacrifices.

“I never looked at basketball as work. I didn’t realise it was work until my first year in the NBA. When I came around, I was surrounded by other professionals and I thought basketball was going to be everything, and it wasn’t. I thought everybody was going to be obsessive about the game like me. It was like ‘No? Ohhh, that’s hard work. I get it now.’” — Kobe Bryant

RIP Black Mamba. #24

Kobe Bryant died aged 41, in a helicopter crash over Calabasas, California on January 26th, 2020. His 13-year-old daughter Gigi was also killed, along with three other passengers who have not been named at the time of writing.

Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK who made this afterword exactly twenty-four words long, in dedication to Kobe.

Trying to make the world a better place, one word at a time.

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