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Dear Basketball

I’m ready to let you go.

I want you to know now,

so we can both savor

every moment we have left together.

– Kobe Bryant

Mason: Kobe. Bean. Bryant. I don’t know where to really begin. One of my biggest regrets in life has been not ever being able to watch Michael Jordan play in his prime (outside of space jam of course). However, it wasn’t very long until Kobe Bryant took the mantle of the NBA’s fiercest competitor and hasn’t let it go since. Until tonight. After his final game in the Staples center, Kobe will say farewell to Los Angeles, the Lakers, and the thing that he’s held close for so long: playing the game of basketball.

Max: It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game. Although for The Mamba now seems like the right time to take his final bow. For us, Kobe was our generation’s MJ and we have been lucky enough to be able to watch him throughout his career.

Dean: The Mamba. What else is there to say?

Will: Kobe Bryant was a pioneer of the game. He was so monumental for the Lakers that they were considered contenders solely because of Kobe’s presence. That’s how special he was. He won five championships and, even playing for a storied franchise like the LA Lakers, still has his place in the record books.


The Prep

What is the first thing that you remember about Kobe Bryant?

Mason: I was born in the late 90’s so growing up, all of my friends would never yell “Jordan” whenever we heaved up a shot. At the age of 7, I heard one of my friend’s try to pull up from deep beyond the 3-point line and shouted out “Kobe”, and I was like what did you say? He then proceeded to tell me all about his favorite NBA player, Kobe Bean Bryant, the shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. That night when I got back, I went on the internet and learned all I could about this “Kobe Bryant” individual. I was amazed at all of his clutch plays, the way that he fearlessly pulled up from almost anywhere on the court, and of course his three championships with Shaq.

Max: Growing up I was never that big of a basketball fan. I never played in an organized league or watched it much on TV. Though whenever I would play a pickup game with friends a ridiculous shot or good play was always followed by yelling “Kobe!” Even though the sport didn’t mean that much to me then, his name was and always will be synonymous with greatness.

Dean: Watching him on TV during the 2002 Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals. Those were the first two NBA playoff series I remember watching, and back then it was all about Kobe. There wasn’t necessarily one moment that stood out, but as a first grader I couldn’t help but be wowed by his talent, athleticism, personality, and popularity. And after all, who could forget the cowbell series?

Will: I was never much of a basketball fan, so my first Kobe Bryant memory was in 2004, when Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal’s feud culminated and led to Shaq leaving for Miami. Talk about giving Kobe the keys to the city: after winning three straight championships, the team jettisoned his rival and paid Bryant big time.


 

The Competitor

 

If you could define Kobe Bryant, as a competitor, in one word what would it be?

Mason – Obsessed

Max– Relentless

Dean – Fierce

Will – Unstoppable


 

The NBA Champion

There have been a lot of great Kobe moments in the playoffs, which one will you never forget?

Mason – without a doubt in my mind, the entire 2010 NBA Finals series against the Celtics. He was just able to score at will against a team that was made up of: Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, and Ray Allen. That season was Kobe’s finest season, and it gave us one of the best playoff series of all time. Fun fact, during that seven game series, Kobe had a true shooting percentage of 53% ON 163 SHOTS (oh dear).

Max – Game 4 in the first round of the 2006 Western Conference playoff versus the Suns. Hitting both the game tying and game winning shot as time expires. What is more clutch than that?

Dean – Remember game six of the Western Confernece Quarterfinals when Kobe had the flu and dropped 31 points? It didn’t compare to Michael Jordan, but holy cow that deserves a round of applause.

Will – Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Championships. That was the moment where I knew that Kobe wasn’t just a legend, but he was one of the game’s best.

Where would you rank him among the Laker greats that came before him?

Mason – I put him in second. Right behind Mr. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes Magic and Wilt were very good, and Magic made passing the ball cool, but Kobe gave himself a nickname that stuck and showed that you didn’t always need to pass the ball…sometimes you just got to let your teammates get the rebounds.

Max – This is a tough one since the only ones I have had the pleasure of watching is Kobe and Shaq. Though I would put him second behind only Magic Johnson.

Dean – Gotta put Kobe at No. 1. Magic Johnson right behind him, followed by Wilt Chamberlain.

Will – I’m opting to put him in second place, behind Magic Johnson but in front of Wilt Chamberlain.


The Mamba

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the greatness that was Kobe Bryant. That being said, what is the one Black Mamba moment that you will never forget?

Mason: I’m immediately tempted to say, Oh I don’t know, his historic scoring montage against Toronto when he dropped the second most points by an individual player in a single game. Trying to imagine a professional basketball player dropping 81 points against another professional team just makes my head hurt. However, I did not get to witness that game live, so it can’t claim my top spot. Coincidentally, my favorite moment of his did come against the same team, just years later. It was Kobe’s clutch 2 minute drill, where he willed the Lakers to a come from behind victory against the Raptors in 2013, that ended in an overtime thriller. I never saw Reggie Miller’s two three’s that happened in the blink of an eye against the Knicks, but I can imagine that the feeling was something like what I saw the Mamba do that day. (Honorable Mention: Buzzer Beater against the Suns in 2006).

Max: In general, my favorite memory of Kobe Bryant would be whenever he posterized someone while going up for a monster dunk.  Every single one looked like it was straight out of the video game NBA Jam minus the glass breaking or someone yelling “BOOM SHAKALAKA!” The dunk that sticks out most in my mind was the one on Steve Nash. With the best part being that Nash got called for a foul after being completely obliterated by The Mamba.

Dean: I grew up in Lakers territory yet somehow have only managed to make it to one Lakers game my entire life. That one game was game four of the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Let’s just say I was fortunate to witness Kobe throw up a 360 slam dunk in that contest. That’s a moment that you’re just never going to forget, even if you were only eight years old at the time.

Will: The best things are worth repeating, so again I’ll go with his performance in the 2010 NBA Finals. I couldn’t think of a better opponent for Bryant to make a mockery out of.


The Legend

What do you think will be the next step for Kobe Bryant? What is it that he is going to turn all of his attention to in the future?

Mason – I’ve heard Kobe speak on this a little throughout the season. I believe he is going to dedicate his time and effort to ensuring that the game is played the right way by future generations to come. I believe he will be supporting youth play more, through camps and other programs. Kobe is not saying goodbye to the sport. He’s saying goodbye to playing basketball, so I don’t believe he is done with the sport just yet.

Max– Recently, I watched a video of Kobe taking about the tech in his line of basketball shoes. I was surprised at how eloquently he spoke and how knowledgeable how was on the topic. I can see him continuing to contribute to the game by designing the gear that will be used by the next generation. For our generation Jordans are the gold standard for basketball shoes since they are associated with a highly esteemed player that most of my generation never saw play. I can see Kobe being that to the next generation. One day in the near future Kobes will be just as esteemed as Air Jordan.

Dean – I can’t help but see him becoming an assistant coach for an NBA Franhcise. Heck, maybe we’ll even see him reunite with Phil Jackson by joining the Knicks coaching staff in the years to come. If that doesn’t work out, hey, he could always try joining Magic in the broadcast booth. Who wouldn’t want to have the greatest player of this era work for them?

Will – I think he will quietly fade out of the spotlight. The best players know when it’s time to move on, and I think that Kobe is no longer in love with the game like he once was. I would expect him to take a few years off before considering any spokesman or commentary role.

When it is all said and done after tonight, how do you think Kobe will be remembered by everyone now, and in the future?

Mason – As a once in a generation player. All of us missed MJ play in his prime. And yes, while LeBron will probably go down as the most talented individual to ever lay foot on a basketball court, Kobe Bryant will go down as the greatest competitor that the NBA has seen since his Airness. Kobe pushed himself and others to either play better or get off his team. Kobe was never afraid to speak his mind, even when it made him the villain. Kobe was uncensored, merciless, and down right insane as a competitor, but that is why we loved him. That is why he became one of the greatest of time. He didn’t just want the ball when the game was on the line, he DEMANDED it. Him and Jordan are the only two to ever keep up that level of competitiveness (sorry LeBron) over their career, and I don’t see anyone else joining that club anytime soon.

Max – Kobe will be remembered for his passion and dedication. Over the past few years Kobe has not been the beast on the court that we have been accustomed to. Even still, he has remained committed to his team and battled well past the limits of his body. Almost anyone would have thrown in the towel when things started to go downhill, but Bryant has stayed and gone out the right way. It is impossible to forget the golden years of his career, but battling through the hard times Kobe has cemented his legacy as a legend. While his stats over the last few years may seem like a dark spot on his illustrious career, his dedication to the sport he cares for so deeply speaks volumes over any accolade or statistic.

Dean – Once he hangs up his cleats for good, Kobe we be remembered as sensational. His incredible athleticism captivated audiences of all ages, and he accomplished things on the hardwood that many never thought were possible, like scoring 81 points in a game. He accepted any challenge given to him and almost always prevailed, no matter how big it was. Certainly he will have his critics, and he will have to live with some of the decisions he made off the court. At the end of the day though, he will be remembered for the impact he made on the game and professional sports as a whole, inspiring youth to be the best they can possibly be at what they do.

Will – As one of the game’s best and “the guy” of the new millennium. Say whatever you want about LeBron James, but the man has two championships to Kobe’s five. Kobe is a pioneer of the game and played it the right way. He had a sometimes boisterous personality that shined through, but when we talk about Kobe Bryant in five years from now, the rings, the accolades and his style of play will always be remembered first.


Goodbye

Well Kobe, I suppose this is it. After tonight you’ll never play another minute in gold and purple, but that’s okay with me. You have given this game and the fans everything that you physically could. As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but look to the future and imagine myself trying to describe you to my son or daughter, just as my father did with MJ to me.

You are special Mr. Bryant. You differentiated yourself from everyone else on the court by pushing yourself past your limits. You will be missed for a little bit, but you will be loved and remembered always. Not just by LA fans, not just by fans of basketball, but by anyone who has ever had a competitive fire within them.

Thank you Kobe Bryant. For everything. May you find as much success in the next phase of your life.

– The Pressing Coverage Staff

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