Legends never die: Kobe Bryant retires, but will not be forgotten


The Magnet Tribune: Aaron Izaguirre

Drawing of Kobe Bryant by VMT art student Aaron Izaguirre.

In our lifetime, we all get to witness a legend at least once. A recent one I had the opportunity to witness was Kobe Bryant, also known as “The Black Mamba.” Now, what is a legend? I believe a legend is a person that is very well known due to his/her accomplishments in their life or career.

Kobe Bryant to me is a huge basketball legend that made NBA history by breaking records each season and playing to his full extent each time he stepped on the court. In fact, he was the youngest player to ever be in the NBA at the age of 18. It is a mournful but joyful loss to me and to others who watch basketball that Bryant had to retire after a 20-year career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was brought into basketball environment as a kid, being the son of former basketball player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. His father played a big role in Kobe’s life. I believe he was Kobe’s biggest inspiration to have a dream of becoming a professional basketball player in the NBA.

After moving around for his father’s career living in Italy, Kobe along the way discovered his love for the game at age 3.

Once Kobe returned from living in Italy all his childhood, it was now time to begin attending high school. He began to play basketball for Merion High School and was able to make the varsity team his freshman year. Bryant achieved many expectations and was named “Pennsylvania Player of the Year” during his junior year. Besides that, Kobe was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country.

Having that said, Bryant was a player that tremendously contributed a big part to his team leading them to the state championships four years in a row for the first time in 53 years. I don’t think it was easy for him to be a part of a new environment especially since it was in a different country. It took Kobe a lot of courage to start playing with complete strangers as soon as he returned.

I believe that Kobe cannot be replaced. Kobe Bryant is forever.”

— Justyne Bernal

Once Kobe was about to graduate the decision was to be made whether or not to he would attend college before he went to pursue his NBA dream. Due to his good grades and high scores on tests, he was offered a good amount of scholarships to major colleges and universities. The final choice was tough in my perspective because it would determine what he would do with the rest of his life. But, it was finally made that he would bypass college and go straight to the NBA draft.

After Bryant made this life decision, he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft. But he was not a Hornet for long as he was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, this trade in Bryant’s head did not define or influence him. Kobe was glad this decision was made knowing that with the Hornets he wouldn’t be off the bench much. This led me to believe that Kobe was in love for the game. He did not care who he played with, as long as he had the opportunity to do so.

In his first year as a player of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996-1997, Bryant was able to gain success right away in my perspective. All eyes were on Bryant, the “rookie” after he won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest making history being the youngest dunk champion ever.

During his second season, he was then named an All-Star. In fact, Kobe made 13 All-Star game appearances and was able to earn four All-Star game MVP’s in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Bryant’s chances of being even more successful arose when new coach Phil Jackson arrived to lead the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. Time went on and Kobe only got better. This shows me that hard work actually does pay off.

Eventually, a “legendary center-guard combination” was created with Bryant and O’Neal. They were able to team and lead the team to a three-peat, winning the championships in 2001, 2002, and 2003. I believe they will forever be one of the best combinations in the NBA.

There were many problems going on including the loss of O’Neal not being a part of the Los Angeles Lakers and the loss of the “great combination.” Bryant somehow continued to move forward and continued to set records, becoming the youngest player to reach 14,000 points, and setting a franchise record for consecutive made free throws. He then became the backbone of the Los Angeles Lakers after O’Neal was traded. A lot of determination was projected as Kobe resumed his success even if a big part of him was lost. He then became the backbone of the Los Angeles Lakers after O’Neal was traded.

In 2008, Bryant’s career kept rising. He led his team to The Western Conference Finals and was able to earn the Most Valuable Award (MVP) during the 2007-08 season. During that year’s Summer Olympics, Kobe became a member of the U.S men’s basketball team and was able to earn a gold medal as well.

Bryant was also able to carry his team to the 2009 and 2010 championships. Here, he was able to win the Finals Most Valuable Award in both years. These were huge back to back accomplishments that made people fall in love with the way Kobe played the game. I was impressed with the achievements that Kobe has been talented enough to accomplish.

He until this day continues to be successful having created a shoe industry with Nike. This industry has been very successful since the beginning. There are many people anywhere you go wearing Kobe’s shoes. In my perspective, Kobe’s shoes are very unlike other basketball shoes.

Kobe won five NBA titles and scored more points than any guard in the history of the game. Nobody would have thought that after 20 years in the game, Kobe would retire now at the age of 37.

One part of his announcement to retire, called “Dear Basketball” stated:

“This season is all I have left to give.

My heart can take the pounding

My mind can handle the grind

But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye

And that’s OK,

I’m ready to let you go.”

Time has gone by and when I hear Los Angeles Lakers all that comes to my mind is Kobe Bryant. But this was not just given to him. Kobe was once a rookie guard playing for the Los Angeles Lakers straight out of high school. Of course, he never stopped working hard to become a better basketball player.

Despite injuries and downfalls, he kept going and did not let anything stop him from being successful. I could say that as a basketball player Kobe Bryant is someone I can look up to for inspiration.

Kobe has now left the game but definitely left his name in the books. Not only did he leave his mark in the NBA, but also in the memory of all his fans. I believe that Kobe cannot be replaced. As he said, “Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.” Kobe Bryant is forever.