I caught a bounce pass at the left elbow from my point guard. 10 seconds left to go in the third quarter and we were down six points.
We faced our rivals, Pittsford Sutherland. I had a decision to make: Complete the play we had drawn up, or take the shot myself.
The defender’s hand was on my back, and for a split second my thoughts went to Kobe.
I faked with my right shoulder, rolled back and opened my hips out left to create space, and stepped back for the fadeaway. “Kobe,” I said to myself, and I closed my eyes, certain the shot would go in. It didn’t.
I had reenacted Kobe Bryant’s signature shot, a move dreaded by all defenders in the NBA, and I had failed. It was a move that had helped make him the fourth all-time scoring leader in the NBA, but I couldn’t pull it off.
“I have self-doubt,” Bryant had said. “I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”
After the game, I kept replaying the shot I had taken. Should I have taken it? What if I hadn’t?
Sitting in the locker room, I decided to embrace my failure. I may have missed, but if I continued to work on my game, next time I would make the shot.
Bryant didn’t just inspire me in basketball.
“We all can be masters at our craft, but you have to make a choice,” Bryant said. “What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that.”
This concept of sacrifice has been a big part of my life. As a college student pursuing a career as a cardiologist, I know that I will have to make sacrifices in order to achieve my aspirations. Not meeting up with friends for bubble tea at Taichi, not being able to go home and see family even though I’m from Rochester, not partying on weekends, not playing video games. I can’t always do everything I want to.
But I know I’m working towards something big.
In my time at UR I have been challenged. I’ve sprained my ankle, failed some exams, lost some friends. My 10-year-old cousin passed away. Sometimes I’ve wanted to give up and stop attending school. I have pondered not leaving my room, and just laying down to cry.
Kobe Bryant, my role model, is dead at the age of 41.
With five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, two Olympic Gold Medals, and 33,643 career NBA points, there is no doubt Bryant was one of the best to ever play. But he was about more than that. He was a father of four daughters, a husband, a coach, a teacher, a leader, and a symbol that inspired people all over the world.
His drive, his hustle, his determination, his confidence, and his winning mentality is what I will carry throughout my life. He taught a whole generation of basketball players the Mamba mentality: a tireless pursuit of perfection.