The Black Mamba

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts while taking on the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts while taking on the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s harder to imagine in this day and age that one person can stay in the same place, doing the same job for 20 years. It does happen and it will continue to happen, but from a sports perspective this is very rare.

Kobe Bryant leaves the NBA as the third highest scorer in the league’s history. Behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. He has won five championships, one MVP award and appeared in 18 All-Star games.

He has had many accomplishments and great moments, but he has also had some flaws as well. No one will ever be perfect.

The one memory of him that sticks out for me is during the time when he was being accused of rape in Colorado. He gave a press conference admitting that he cheated on his wife and was asking for her forgiveness.

All jokes aside about the ring that Kobe gave his wife during that time, it said something to me about him that even someone as famous as himself was willing to go to those lengths to make amends.

The rape case never went to trial. There was a settlement out of court between him and the accuser. Time eventually healed those wounds for him, but you could tell that they would never go away.

I’ve made no secret in my disdain for the way he and Shaquille O’Neal handled their dispute with one another leading to the Lakers trading away Shaq to Miami.

To their credit, they’ve both admitted that it should have never come to that and more championships would have come to the Lakers had they stayed together.

There are many basketball memories that I will never forget with Kobe; The pass to Shaq in the 2000 Western Conference Finals against Portland, his performance in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals, the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals with him winning his last two titles, his 81-point game, even though I didn’t watch it live, I’ve seen many replays of it and it still amazes me.

The newest one was the one that happened on April 13, 2016. His final game was in short, phenomenal. No one should have been able to do what he did in scoring 60-points. To Utah’s credit they did play defense the entire game and that’s what made Kobe’s final game all the more telling.

He attempted 50 shots, but who really cares when he was shooting at almost a 50% rate? From beginning to end it was the best Lakers game I had seen in a long time. They have been terrible to watch the last three seasons. To make this game even sweeter was the fact that they came back to win the game being down by double digits for most of it.

I grew up during Michael Jordan’s era of the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls and choose to forget that he played two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

Seeing Kobe Bryant play all of his career with one team and that one team being the Lakers, whom I’ve been a fan of all my life has been satisfying.

I’ve seen him play in person once at the Great Western Forum with Shaq in 1999. I had the pleasure of seeing him play earlier this year for the first time at Staples Center with my younger brother who had never seen him play in person.

Below is a video of Kobe putting that game away.

To Kobe,

I’ve enjoyed seeing you play in purple and gold for 20 years. Should I have children of my own or if my nieces and nephews ask me the question, “What was it like to see Kobe play?” Or, “Who was better, Kobe or Jordan?” I would simply say that it was watching poetry come to life on the basketball court. Your dedication to your craft could only be matched by Michael Jordan, whom I believe to be the best basketball player that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if I could give a direct answer to the second question, but I would say that if you truly want to be good at something, you can look at both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan as examples of what you must do to become the best. It doesn’t have to be a sport, but they have both demonstrated that you have to have the will and determination to never give in and always strive to be the best. You do that and there will never be any regrets, even when you fail. Your example is one that will be admired by myself and others. You’ve accomplished so much and I congratulate you on a Hall of Fame 20-year career. Thank you.

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