Sometimes a person’s name takes on a life of its own. Kobe Bryant dedicated his life to being the best at what he did. He knew that he could do anything as long as he put enough work in, and he put more work in than anyone else.
For 20 years he showed the NBA and the world how hard work could make you the greatest player alive. When he left the game, his name stayed on the court, part of the culture and the language of a generation of athletes.
It’s a phrase of energy on the court. It’s an intimidating battle cry in its purest form. It’s an institution on the playground. It can be playful, a source of inspiration for our nation’s young athletes.
It reminds me of stinging scrapes from concrete courts, breathless pick-up games, and echoing laughter. The perfect form of your shot into the basket, replicating your game for the classroom with a ball of tightly wadded paper. The embarrassment of missing your shot in front of third period history matched what you felt on the court.
I can feel the sweat of old jerseys on my back as I write this — the tightness in my chest as I push myself down the court on the fast break. The reward of getting to shoot if I was fast enough.
From playing with close friends to strangers met three minutes ago, the word united everyone. It became a dream, a moment of pride and beauty. It’s a motion all students of the game have tried. It feels awkward at first, stepping back and shooting off balance. But after private sessions without prying eyes, you become more confident to finish the steps with “Kobe.”
It brings an elation to the crowd, because everyone knows the word — sink your shot and multiple bodies respond “Kobe.”
It’s a dominating force, challenging defenses not to fall under its sword. It forces competition, creates spirit on the bench, and electrifies the court. As the hearts are pumping and the bleachers are full stomps and shouts, when the shot is hit from the three-point line, all the breaths in the gym are held in so they can yell “Kobe.”
“Kobe” has become a compulsion for making a shot: on the court, in the classroom, in the halls. Anywhere that provides the opportunity for shooting something into a basket. “Kobe” is a dream. “Kobe” is the moment athletes strive for. It’s the early hours in the gym to the after-game shooting reps. It’s the suicide sprints and mile runs, the lift sessions that make you fight, the repeated shots and lay-ups so you are ready for when you pull up to shoot with 0.1 seconds on the clock.
It’ll come out of nowhere and it won’t last long — you have to be on edge and ready for the pass. You’ll catch the ball, and the defender will step up, the seconds slow down as you breathe out. Adrenaline is pumping through you so fast you have to fight to keep your actions controlled. You push your body back, keeping your eyes on the goal. You extend up, light and in flight — gravity tries to pull you down but your wings keep you high. You put the lightest touch on the ball, fingers rolling along the leather, you fall down but land like a feather. The ball meets net, and makes that satisfying sound, and…