Translated by Arturo Hilario
Kobe Bryant, known as the ‘Black Mamba’, became one of the great icons of world basketball thanks to his extraordinary scoring ability, his love for the sport and an overwhelming personality that led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships and cemented the franchise as one of the sport’s greatest.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot,” he said once explaining his voracity and ambition.
He was known as ‘Black Mamba’ precisely because of his winning will that had no limits, much like the serpent which strikes without provocation. Many believe he was essentially born with a basketball in hand.
Son of Joe Bryant, also an NBA player, the family moved to Italy at age six where his father played between 1984 and 1991 in various clubs.
He learned to speak Italian fluently and developed a passion for football (not the American one), which would keep the rest of his life as a follower of F.C. Barcelona and the Brazilian Ronaldinho Gaucho.
After returning to the US in 1991, he began to play in his high school team outside Philadelphia, where he established himself as one of the rising young stars.
Traditionally, high school players went through the university league where they seek to consolidate their talent and experience, but Bryant showed signs of his ever-evolving talent by jumping directly to the NBA in 1996 at just 18 years-old.
“If you’re afraid of failure, then you’re probably going to fail,” he used to say.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He won five NBA champion rings, the first three with Shaquille O’Neal and the last two with the Spaniard Pau Gasol, in 2009 and 2010.
When Gasol left Los Angeles to pursue his career with the Chicago Bulls he recognized, “how much he missed” Bryant.
“I miss his presence. I miss his attitude. There aren’t many players that have him,” he said of his former teammate.
After retiring, he quickly presented his own investment fund focused on the technology, media and data sectors.
Also, in 2018 he competed for, and won, the Oscar for the best animated short film with “Dear Basketball”, based on a poem he wrote to his beloved sport. The animation was done by Glen Keane and score by the legendary John Williams. Bryant Narrated the short.
“We both know, no matter what I do next / I will always be that child / with the socks stretched / a garbage can in the corner / five seconds on the clock / the ball in my hands / 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 / I will always love you / Kobe “.
Kobe is considered one of the best NBA players of all time, as he has been part of the star team 18 times during his 20-year career with the Lakers.
The Lakers retired Kobe’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24 on December 18, 2017, being the only player in the history of the LA team that has received that honor.
He also won two gold medals with the USA team at the 2008 Beijing and London Olympic Games in 2012.
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and three daughters: Natalia, Bianca and the newborn Capri.
Gianna, who also perished in the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and 7 others on Sunday January 26, was 13.