• Don Collins

Mamba Memories (Day 19)

Day 19 of the Anion Sports 25 Days of Christmas blog.


Kobe Bryant, 24, winning his fifth championship

This is the Kobe I truly got to know. 2007-08 was the first-time basketball became a full-time sport for me. Before this season, I had only watched Bulls games in passing (I still hadn’t fully figured out that sport did exist outside of the April to October baseball season and the Chicago Cubs). But man, Derrick Rose changed all of that. After the Bulls epic showdown with the Boston Celtics in his rookie season ended with a loss, the hype and excitement surrounding that series wouldn’t let me just tune out. Gone were the days where I would just go do homework after school and watch cartoons until bed. Basketball was paramount.

And thus, the NBA Finals that year was the greatest thing for me since sliced bread. Not saying I rooted against the Celtics, but yeah, they had infuriated me by ending the Bulls season. But I was as impartial as possible watching this series. And there it was: my first chance to see the number 24 on the biggest stage of them all.

We all know how that series ended. Kevin Garnett. “ANYTHING’S POSSIBBBBLLLLLLEEEEE!!!!” The Kobe saga for me was really the next time they matched up. Outside of the congratulations bestowed upon 24 by me for conquering the Orlando Magic, it was just another ring for him. But this 2009-10 Finals was CRAZY. I’ll never forget that series and the way the Lakers found a way to win it all. Somehow, someway.

And that’s how Kobe made me feel the rest of his career. Somehow, someway. He found a way to will his Lakers team to within shouting distance of the playoffs and then delivered the most inspirational moment in basketball history, sinking both free throws fresh off a torn Achilles. Kobe managed to make my Dad cooler than he was when he walked home after tearing his Achilles. Seriously, I could draw parallels to anything sport, so this was the absolute toughest thing he could have done in my eyes.

Back to Kobe. He seemingly defied everything. The laws of physics, expectations, even his own bodily limitations. And that culminated in a day that lives forever in my mind and heart. April 13th will always be #MambaDay. He managed to bring all the stars out to the Staples Center to celebrate his final game in his illustrious career. He didn’t disappoint.

The Mamba finished his career with 60 points in the most improbable performance I’ve ever seen. My friends and I joke before the game that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go nuts and get like 40 points to go out like a real one. That damn Kobe went and defied logic one last time.

Greatness is something that people will spend a lifetime chasing. And some never get it. So, the words of one of the greatest NBA players of all time stick with me when he says, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” He, in his speech about his jersey being immortalized, said that the ability to go to work everyday on your craft was the true dream. I love it. It is the embodiment of what #BeGreat means. No matter what you do, no matter your skill, trade or profession, you all are chasing a dream. one filled with blood, sweat and tears. You are defined by the work you put in and your perseverance. You all are a journey with multiple stops. So never stop on your path to #BeGreat.

Thank you, Kobe.

#KobeBryant #MambaMentality #LosAngelesLakers #AnionSports

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