As we honor Kobe Bryant during #MambaWeek, we look back to a piece written by our very own Vasu Kulkarni back in 2016, four years before Kobe’s tragic death. Thank you for the memories, Kobe.
Wow. What a way to go out. I feel so stupid thinking that it would end any other way. I picked the Warriors' 73rd game over your finale, and I’ll always be sick to my stomach about that decision. I should have known you would go out on top. Your way. In style. Dropping the mic on your way out.
The love hate relationship I had with you over the years is only comparable to the most volatile affairs I have had with some girls through college. It was definitely more love than hate though. The love was genuine. The hate was fleeting.
While Michael entered the league at the dawn of globalization of broadcast television and the game of basketball, you joined us right at the start of the internet revolution. You were the first player that I could actively follow from my home in Bangalore, India. I could keep track of your every move, both on and off the court. While Michael kindled the fire in my belly for this game that I love, you were the fuel that turned me into a raging maniac.
I didn’t understand that basketball was a team game until my mid twenties. You and Michael carried your teams so well, that it was a foregone conclusion that one man could do it all. That’s why I loved you so. Like you, I too have always wanted to do it all myself. On the court, in the business world, and in life in general. I never asked for help. It was only in the past few years that I began to realize how ridiculous it is for one man to try to carry the load himself, and that’s when I started to get frustrated with your lack of passing the damn ball.
But you always wanted nothing more than to win — that much I will give you. You had the same look in your eyes that Mike had — you would do whatever it took to will your team to victory. I don’t know if anyone else in the league today has that Mamba mentality. It wasn’t about the business of basketball with you — you were all about the business of winning, and boy was business good in L.A.
The injuries these past few years really put a damper on things. It was too painful to watch you struggle to be the Kobe of old, and not accepting that times had changed. I stopped watching Laker games entirely about 2 years ago, after having watched nearly 82 games every year. I just couldn’t do it. And that’s why I chose to attend the Warriors game over yours. I wanted to remember 81 point Kobe, not father time Kobe.
But of course you and the universe had other plans. Wednesday was one of those days where you stop, look around, and go, “man, there’s something else going on here.” I don’t know what deal you made with the devil, but boy was it worth it. To go out like that is what everyone dreams of. Make your last shot, hang up the sneakers one last time, and ride off into the sunset. Sorkin couldn’t have written it better if he had tried. If Disney had tried to make a movie with someone dropping 60 in their final game, people would have said the writers were smoking crack. But of course, it was only fitting that you stole the show, one last time. You conjured up indelible images from the past — things we never thought we’d see again — but for one quarter there, time appeared to stand still, and we got to say goodbye to you the way every couple that has ever broken up wishes they could — with nothing but great memories that will last them a life time.
So to you Kobe, I say thank you. Thank you for showing us what work ethic really means. Thank you for the buzzer beaters and the breath-taking dunks. Thank you for 81 points — I will always remember where I was when I watched that. Thank you for being the ultimate competitor, even if it meant not passing the ball when you probably should have. I know you meant well. And finally, thank you for putting on a show on Wednesday night. For many of us, it will likely be the one Kobe Bryant memory that we will take to our grave.
- Vasu K.
Vasu is a part of the Snaps family and is the self-proclaimed biggest basketball fan in the world.