It was the year 2010 and I just woke up to this unsettling noise at our home. I woke up to the cheers of my Father for the Lakers in their 2010 rematch agains the Celtics. Believe me, it was the first Finals I have seen. When I woke up, my father told me about the great Kobe Bryant and the Lakers franchise. He told me about how dominant the Lakers were and how Kobe is lifting the team up and putting the Lakers again on top of the mountain. 7 games later, it proved true as Lakers prevailed and Kobe has won 5 championships. Fast forward, I started researching about the Lakers (especially Kobe) and I was able to know about their winning culture – from the Jerry West era to the Showtime Lakers to the 3-peat Lakers. I was even shocked when I knew that Kobe was already a part of the 3-peat Lakers. One thing was established in my mind: Kobe Bryant is a winner. I knew about the history of how Kobe was just Robin to Shaq’s Batman. His struggles were also apparent as the Lakers drowned down the conference at the middle of the decade. I became addicted to this Kobe thing- I even had a Kobe 4 which I treasured the most among all the wall posters, the jerseys and all. Kobe was the one who initiated my love for the game. We have to look up to someone, right? So I observed Kobe’s tenure with the Lakers post-championship. I felt pain when they were demolished by the Mavs the following year; I was a little upset especially in game 4’s blowout loss. Then the Superteam experiment happened. I got happy because Kobe now has help from the consensus best Center at that time and an all time great point guard in Steve Nash. However, we all knew what happened to that team. Injuries, team chemistry, and friction ruined the chance for Kobe to get his final ring as he is clearly on his last legs. Kobe was really doing his best to carry a mediocre Lakers in the following years. He was still capable but tired. The ACL happened which broke my heart as he composed himself to shoot a pair of free throws. Months went by until he had his return. It was clear to me that the Mamba has become a shell of his former self- he looked old, unathletic and seemed ready to go. Yet, he didn’t, he forced himself through the Mamba Mentality to play through whatever circumstance he is around- whether having an injury or playing around mediocre teammates. Bryant showed the heart of a 5-time champion. Then in 2016, he announced his retirement. Flash forward to his swan song; I did not expect him to erupt for 60 in his final game. Every shot he made had me jumping around for joy. The Killer Instinct was clear although they are out for the playoffs (They had their worst franchise record). I was happy that Kobe saved one of his best for last. Now. It has been 2 months already since he left us in this Earth. Yet, the feels of the 2010 championship and his final game are still surreal (I had not seen the 81 point game personally so it steps back) I never expected someone of Kobe’s stature would have the horrible and unfortunate ending he had. His highlights still seem to be fresh. Inefficient sometimes, but Kobe really put his heart out to when it mattered the most. I still watch some of his highlights and it still feels like yesterday he dropped 40 or 30 or him performing his patented midrange fadeaway over a double team. He will always have a place in my heart and he will always be remembered as a true winner and a warrior of the game.
Written by: Le Miguel Ylanan Jumonong