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What Kobe meant to me

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This isn’t something I ever wanted to write.

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Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Kobe Bryant made his Los Angeles Lakers debut on November 3, 1996. I had turned 10 basically a couple weeks prior and had no idea what an incredible journey had just launched that night. Kobe’s career brought joy, heartache, frustration, admiration, and everything in between, and to think I’m going to have to from this point on refer to him in the past tense is just fucking excruciating, absolutely crushing.

Harrison asked me to summarize what he meant to me and, well, wish me luck. How does one put into words what an athlete whose maturation in many ways coincided with my own means to someone they’ll never meet?

After hours of reflecting, crying, starting, stopping, writing and erasing, I realized there is no perfect answer — and that, to me, is his legacy.

Kobe wasn’t perfect. We know about the blemishes on his resumé. Kobe knew, himself, that he wasn’t perfect. But even with that understood, he tried like hell to come close. That’s what I’ll always remember about him, and what I’ll carry forward with me until the day I, too, pass on.

Bryant’s legacy is that, no matter what it is that you put your mind to, even knowing there’s no way you will be perfect or the best-ever at it, that’s no reason not to strive for that goal.

For his time with Shaquille O’Neal, he’ll go down as one of the greatest ever second-best players on a team.

When O’Neal was traded away, Bryant went out and won two straight championships, silencing those who wondered whether his success was only a product of the all-timer he played with.

On nights where Kobe wanted to facilitate, he’d make you think he could set assist records. When he wanted to focus on shooting, he at one point shared the NBA record for threes made in a game. And, obviously, you know what happened when he put his mind to scoring.

After his career ended and he found his next passion, he won an Oscar.

And most importantly, once Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri were born, he focused on being the best father he could possibly be.

So, in honor of his memory, that’s what I’ll continue to do too.

I’ll never be the best writer on the internet, nor will I ever be the best podcast host, basketball analyst, friend, husband, or father. But I’ll be damned if I don’t give it my absolute best in the pursuit of coming as close as I humanly can to those things. Because that’s what Kobe would expect of me; it’s what he’d expect of us.

The accolades and adoration from his peers and successors are what will define his career, but what will define his legacy (at least to me) is his undying pursuit of greatness, no matter the odds.

Whatever words I was able to jot down here through tear-soaked eyes won’t be the best summary of Bryant’s meaning, but it was the absolute best I could muster, and the attempt itself is something I hope he’d respect. It’s what I’ll hold close as I continue this journey, now without a hero.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can yell at the author of this article on Twitter @AnthonyIrwinLA. If you want to support more writing like this, you can do so here.