By Jalen Nash
From the moment I saw you,
Whether it was how your fade-away sailed into the basket,
Or how your intensity could be felt through the TV screen,
I knew you were more than a basketball player.
You were a superhero.
The accolades speak for themselves: championships, MVP Awards, All-Star Games—
But what you stood for was deeper than your “success.”
You stood for something greater...
Thousands have been named “champions,”
Hundreds have been named “all-stars,”
Dozens have been named “MVP,”
Yet, only you
Have inspired the world like you have.
Your talent allowed you to stand out as a superstar,
Yet your maniacal focus on the game left you misunderstood.
Your competitive nature brought you to see early success,
Yet your pride sometimes left you surrounded by envy.
This duality brought you to the peak of the highest mountains,
Yet, it was during the lowest valleys where you inspired a kid like me.
Growing up, I stood out amongst my friends.
While I fit in as a body,
My spirit was curious and longed to be something greater.
My mind showed me visions of the same mountaintops you chased.
And I believed in them.
I believed in my vision because you believed in yours.
The Black Mamba began as a persona… a mentality.
A tool you used to lock-in on the court
And dominate your competition.
As you grew, this character grew with you,
Evolving to perfectly describe how you approached the game.
Tenacious, swift, venomous—
This is how they described you.
The guy who would fight until the end,
Who would use his will to determine outcomes,
the one who would strike, just when you began to doubt
You awed many with those values
Which enabled you to go down as one of the best basketball talents to ever live.
The impact “the mamba” made on the court was a fraction
compared to the ways you inspired off of it.
Always before the end goal,
Was your process.
Your 4am workouts inspired the early risers.
Your words inspired the curious.
Your ambition inspired the dreamers.
Your intelligence inspired those who strived to be more than what’s expected,
And your love for family inspired us all.
I am not ready to let you go.
You’ve taught me not to doubt you,
So forgive my denial.
Part of me is still waiting for you to emerge from the ashes,
Appearing from out of nowhere to prove us all wrong---
Like you did against the Celtics,
Or at the free-throw line, Achilles torn, against the Warriors,
Or when you dropped 60-points, completely exhausted, for your final game.
Or like when you won your first Oscar
after writing, Dear Basketball.
No matter what the future holds,
No matter how old I become or the success I achieve,
I’ll always be that awestruck kid,
In the bright yellow Lakers jersey,
Believing in myself
because of how much you believed in you.
I’ll carry your legacy
By letting my work represent me.
I'll carry your legacy
By being fearless.
I’ll carry your legacy
By doing what I love.
I’ll carry your legacy by making sure
that whenever I have a rolled-up paper
Garbage can in the corner,
I’ll put :05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
Thank You Kobe.