By Marcos Perales | Staff Writer |
A memorial service was held for the “Black Mamba” on Feb. 24, 2020, where friends, family and former teammates gathered together to remember the all time basketball great. Speeches were given by notable people such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’neal, and Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife to bring comfort to those who were affected by the loss.
Photo by Boixoesnois on Foter.com / CC BY
It was nearly a month after tragic news was shared about a helicopter crash that shocked us all. Basketball fans and players lost a long distance mentor and role model, some lost a close friend. The Los Angeles Lakers lost a legend. A family lost its loving husband and father, and also a daughter. The world lost Kobe Bryant.
Before his death, there were and still are many debates on who the greatest basketball player of all time is. I believe that person is Kobe Bryant. On the court, he set the bar high for the rest of the NBA and showed what was possible in the game of basketball with numbers eight and 24 on his jersey.
On offense, people who have seen Kobe play basketball will know that he is for the most part unstoppable on the court. He is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. His footwork, fundamentals combined with his athleticism, and his ability to focus on a goal on the court made up his heavy duty offensive game. Kobe did all that was humanly possible when he had the ball in his hands. In 2005, he scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks who were ranked seventh in the NBA in defense and made it to the NBA finals that year. He not only did that, but in the same game he single handedly outscored the Mavericks through the three quarters and no one else in NBA history has outscored a team by themselves. He is also known for scoring 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, second most points scored by an individual behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points. Being the scorer that he was, he also had a four game average of more than 50 points a game during the 2007 NBA season, again, falling short in numbers behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s seven straight 50 point games.
His offensive game was worthy of being modeled after. Especially when he’s fourth all time on the NBA scoring list.
Kobe’s honorable defense got him selected for 12 all defensive teams, nine of them being first team. That’s more than any other player in his position. His defense complimented his offense perfectly. Rebounding the ball is an essential part of defense too. A guard who rebounded like him was valuable and underrated. He was the leader that his team needed on the defensive end. He communicated and he knew where to be at all times. The defense in the NBA today is simply non existent compared to Kobe’s prime years.
An opposing argument that people could use is that Kobe was in Shaquille O’neal’s shadow when they were on the same team and won three championships in a row in the early 2000’s. When the two split, Kobe was eager to prove that claim wrong. It was immediately after they departed ways when Kobe played his best basketball, mostly because that was when he was the most motivated. “I remember him saying ‘these guys are playing checkers and I’m out here playing chess.’ and I would say ‘I guess so Kobe. I don’t know how to play chess.’” Shaq said at the the memorial service for Kobe. When Pau Gasol joined the Lakers in the 2007-08 season, the Lakers were championship contenders again. Pau Gasol never won a single playoff game before he teamed up with Kobe. They made three straight finals appearances after they teamed up. In that championship run, Kobe beat 10 50-win teams to win two more championships. It took other NBA greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James longer to face those more challenging teams. This means that Kobe faced the toughest competition all at one time without Shaq. He won multiple championships with two different co-stars.
The way he was able to win the MVP award, two Finals MVP awards, get selected for multiple all NBA teams and all defensive teams, was through his “Mamba Mentality” mindset.
All this means, as he once explained, is trying your best to be the best version of yourself everyday. He made sacrifices to train as hard as he could to be the best basketball player he could be. He did not let any of his competition outwork his efforts. Basketball was something that he loved very dearly, from the smell of new basketball shoes to the sound of the ball when it hits the floor. All his hard work helped him develop his killer instinct that he had on the court. His mentality also helped him endure many injuries. He had sprained ankles, fractured knees, sprained shoulders, broken fingers, and a torn achilles tendon. Players with that many injuries are not supposed to lead teams to multiple championships. Kobe’s awe-inspiring offense, physical defense, unbreakable mentality and love for basketball is why he is the greatest of all time.