By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
“Kobe doing work. 24 on my shirt. He’s the greatest on the court and I’m the greatest on the verse.”
As Lil Wayne expressed his admiration for the Black Mamba in his song “Kobe Bryant” from 2010, that song became a staple for me, especially in my basketball-playing days because as Wayne reflected through his apt comparison at the time, Kobe’s work ethic and skill-set as the best player in the NBA mentally prepared me for the games and challenges that laid ahead of me.
So much truth exists to the song because Kobe Bryant was more than just one of the greatest basketball players of all time in basketball, but he was also a top-tier GOAT when it came to being a successful Black man in America.
Even though I never met Kobe or had a personal discussion with him, Bryant taught me a lot of life lessons in life. He taught me to be trailblazer, and how to persevere within your journey to greatness. He became one of the first people to come to the league straight out of high school, starting a trend that ultimately became one of the biggest and most positive outputs within the league prior to the “one and done” rule. He struggled at first in the league, but eventually persevered through the ups and downs to become a huge success.
Kobe taught me the mamba mentality and the importance of strong work ethic. He said, “I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.”
As this quote reflects, Kobe simply understood better than most what it meant to be a strong-willed and what that meant in not just pursuing your dreams, but perfect your craft while also having the ability to reinvent yourself.
Kobe taught me to bet on myself. Many people thought he was crazy for stating he wants to be better than Michael Jordan in the early part of his career, but he kept the faith, drive and determination to be great and is now by far the closest thing to MJ the game has ever seen in not only stats, numbers and records, but also in ability, character and intelligence.
Kobe taught me to be to be an activist within my own way. He openly talked about racial issues. He publically supported Colin Kaepernick and stated if he was still in the league he would kneel in protest. He helped start the “I Can’t Breathe” movement by wearing the “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warmups. He stood up for women’s sports, especially Women’s College Basketball and the WNBA.
Kobe taught me that we must appreciate greatness better than we currently do, and to always spread your flowers while you’re alive, because you never know when they will be off the face of the Earth.
Most importantly, Kobe helped teach me how to one day be a good family man. It is sad that the Black Mamba will not be able to accept his Hall of Fame Induction. It is sad that he will not be able to mentor current athletes and youth all across the world.
It is sad that Kobe wasn’t present to see LeBron James break his points record, even sadder that he won’t celebrate with Bron any return of a championship back to LA. It is sad that he will not be sidelined at any Lakers games alongside the many celebrities that continuously support the franchise. It is sad he will not be able to grow old with his wife, and watch 3 of his little girls grow up into successful Black women. But one thing about Bryant is that he always strived to be the best family man he can be.
Kobe was not only a provider, but a supporter of his kids endeavors. In an interview, he stated the reason why he invested in a personal helicopter to travel in was due to his ability to beat the LA traffic and attend as many of the kids’ events as possible. He thrived in not only working to create a legacy on and off the court, but spend as much time with his kids and assisting them in striving for excellence in everything that they did.
There will never be another Kobe Bryant. On the court, Kobe was a generational talent. My generation viewed him as the MJ of our era, the remix to “His Airness.” He never ran away from the big moments, he embraced them and thrived in them. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, a legend, a GOAT. He created a legacy that only Bean Bryant himself can create. He averaged 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists a game. 17 NBA Player of the Months, 32 NBA Player of the Weeks, 4 All-Star MVPs, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 15 All-NBA, 12 All-Defense Team, All-Rookie Team, 1 MVP, 19-time All-Star, 5 championships, 2 Finals MVPs and winds up a top five scorer all-time with 33,643 points.
Off the court, he was a best-selling published author. Oscar-award winner. Teacher. Trainer. Mentor. Businessman. Philanthropist. Activist. A good friend. Loving husband and father. Kobe mentored lots of players, giving back to the game what the game gave him. He provided opportunities for athletes to be great, but also led by example in how a man should live his life daily.
Kobe Bryant’s life provided lessons that Black men should continue to inherit and follow, life lessons that stand to make us great and allow us to define greatness on our terms. Let us remember Bryant and apply the blueprint he created within his own legacy to create ours.
Thank you, Kobe Bean Bryant. Mamba out.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media