I was a very active basketball blogger for most of 2005 ~ 2013 and when you write and think about basketball as much as I did there’s one guy you write and think about a lot about and that is Kobe Bryant. In and around that period which happened to coincide with the rise of YouTube and social media he would win 5 NBA Championships, numerous all star, nba 1st teams, defensive teams and all sorts of fantastic accolades. As such he wasn’t only on my mind but pretty much anyone who followed sports. Within that period Nike invited me to cover two of his visits in the Philippines the 2nd of which in 2011 was a special event to remember. Fans from all over converged onto BGC and Araneta to catch a glimpse. It was so special even veteran event organizers were stunned at the scale. I wasn’t just jostling for position with local press, there were people from Agency France Press, CNN, Chinese, Indian and Taiwanese press all occupying what little space we had to get a good shot.

So to say Kobe was integral of a large part of my life experience at the time is not an exaggeration. Because of Nike, him and the people and media around him that era was special and impossible to forget for me.

Thinking of him now just hours after reading of his and his daughter’s death I cannot help feel deep sorrow and a need to describe what I remember of him.

Obviously he was unbelievably talented and what strikes you most is that this wasn’t obvious looking at him. As far as appearances go he had the same height and build of most NBA players many of whom are bigger and more athletically gifted. Then of course you ask yourself why then is he as good as he is upon which you are now introduced to not Kobe, but the Black Mamba.

It’s hard for me to say this now but that side of Kobe was not liked to put it mildly. People forget this and most probably more so now, but I had never heard so many boos whenever anyone played. People didn’t like what they thought of was a ‘bully’ and his image was absolutely reviled by competing fans and even Laker fans who were seeing their team in decline at the time. I remember thinking how idiotic they looked being angry at a guy for being and wanting to be so successful. I imagine their regret at this time.

None of which mattered of course because in his head, he was the Black Mamba. And eventually everyone will realize what that means, and to me what that means is that he is The Personification of the Pursuit of Excellence. The willingness to do anything and everything to absolutely get the job done.

I remember how he literally bored the crowd at the event by having one of the young players do drill after boring drill. People wanted to see – I’m not really sure what they wanted to see – but he didn’t give them whatever they were looking for. Instead he showed drills. Chasing after the ball drills. Suicide sprints. Rebounding drills. Post up drills. Shooting drills. People who were used to seeing NBA Top Ten Plays and daily highlight reels of him dunking and shooting were in for a shock because instead he showed them what makes him as good as he was. Mindless, repetitious, mechanical, tedious drills. His point was this is what makes Champions. This is what is the Black Mamba is all about.

Some time after his retirement I saw an interview of him talking about his next pursuit which was, of all things, a production company working on making books and music. I remember thinking there wasn’t really any doubt of him doing well there given his pointed answers to some business questions, and true enough he actually won an Oscar and is producing Children’s books.

Again, there was the Black Mamba. Doing work, delivering results, working hard on his game.

I hope more than anything else his life and now death resonates to people as the life of a true leader. A man who made himself become who he is by sheer hard work and discipline. I’m sure I wrote about this before and the message is still the same. We should aspire to be the Kobe Bryant in our lives, the guy who works to bring results. The winner, not by default or endowment or by any luck, but by sheer vision and force of will. That’s the Kobe I will always remember.

Some of My Kobe Posts