A hero, a villain or a legend? What Kobe Bryant meant to readers
Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant share a laugh before a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Nov. 9, 2010.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, speaks with Coach Byron Scott during a game against the San Antonio Spurs last December.(Eric Gay / Associated Press)
(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant drives to the basket past Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers during a game at Staples Center on Jan. 13, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, poses for photos with FC Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta Luján before a training session at the StubHub Stadium in Carson on July 20, 2015.(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant poses for a photo at the Beverly Hills Hilton on July 18, 2014. Bryant was limited to 35 games during the 2014-15 season because of injury.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from reporters surrounding him during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from television reporters during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is surrounded by reporters while doing a radio interview during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant tries to steal the ball from Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried during a game at Staples Center on Nov. 3.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
As Kobe Bryant prepares to take the court for the Lakers for the final time, we asked readers to share what he meant to them and to share some of their favorite memories.
Below are some their responses and personal photos:
Father Time won’t defeat his legacy
Kobe Bryant isn’t just a basketball player. He is a way of life for fans in Los Angeles and around the world. His work ethic, his tenacity, his complete drive to be the best and win at all cost inspires and motivates us as fans throughout our daily lives. At work, at school, through competition. The mentality he has instilled on us all helps us overcome struggle, face adversity and never be satisfied, while always remaining humble.
Kobe Bryant the basketball player is retiring, but to me, there is something beyond that which remains, and can’t be defeated by Father Time. The “Mamba Mentality” will live forever in myself as well as millions of others, and the mark this man has left on the game will never ever be forgotten.
“There is beauty in the struggle”
Nick Caro, Sydney, Australia
Kobe Bryant was the Lakers legend of my generation
My family has lived in Los Angeles for the last 40-plus years, so I’m very fortunate to have been born into the Laker culture: one of the greatest franchises in sports history. My grandpa had Jerry West, my dad had [Earvin] “Magic” Johnson and I’m so lucky to have had Kobe Bryant to dominate the league these past 20 years and be the Laker legend for my generation.
No other Kobe moment stands out more to me than during the 2010 NBA Finals in Staples Center when Bryant jumped on to the announcers table and threw his arm out toward the crowd screaming, “Five!” The Lakers had beaten the wretched Boston Celtics in a seven-game series, earning him his fifth NBA championship.
Finally beating the Celtics in the Finals after losing to them two years prior, was something he HAD to do. Not only as a Laker, but as a competitor. You can feel the joy, the relief, and the sense of victory just pouring out of him. As a diehard Laker fan, watching that with my family is something I will never forget.
Kobe Bryant has not only changed the way I look at basketball, but he is the sole reason I gained a love for the game in the first place. His championships, his seemingly endless scoring runs, his greatness is what drove me to love the game. But his dedication to Los Angeles and to the Lakers during the rough losses, the missed playoffs seasons, the injuries is what made me appreciate and look up to him not only as a player but an idol. He has set the standard for what it takes to be a legend in the NBA.
Brandon Pascual, Los Angeles
He’s not the best since [Michael] Jordan, he’s the best with Jordan.
— Simon Nosworthy, Sydney, Australia
From his first season
I went to a Lakers game during Kobe’s rookie season. My seats were near Chick Hearn’s and Stu Lantz’s broadcast table and, as older fans remember, they were not the best seats in the house.
Kobe was not a starter at the beginning of the season, but you could tell the extreme confidence he had when he played as a rookie. He had a couple of flashy moves, but the one that stands out is the where he stole the ball and did a 360 dunk. He ended up with a career-high up to that point in the season of 21 points. Little did I know that was nothing compared to what he was going accomplish during his career.
Adrian Brindis, Los Angeles
Keeping up with Bryant around the world
Kobe Bryant means everything to me. I was born in L.A., but moved to Europe at a young age. But that didn’t stop me from waking up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. before school to watch Kobe Bryant play the game I love. My alarm would sound, and with the entire house still asleep, I would grab my laptop and immediately go to NBA League Pass.
One time, I remember refusing to go to a New Year’s party with my family because the Lakers game started at midnight in Europe, I stayed home and watched the Lakers go up against the Nuggets, and honestly it was a memorable New Year’s because it was different.
Kobe Bryant also inspired me on the court. As a [shooting guard], I would learn moves from him and translate it to my games. I’d wear my Kobe kicks (I owned Kobe IVs, Vs, VIIs, VIIIs), Kobe shorts and walk into the gym to practice. My friends would yell, “Here comes the White Mamba.”
Kobe actually visited Greece a few times and we participated in a tournament to get to play in front of him. My team didn’t win, but I won the tournament’s [three]-point competition, was interviewed by MTV and got tickets to go see the game where he was in attendance.
When I got accepted to USC, I came back to the States to be close to the Lakers organization and to see Kobe Bryant play in person a couple times. It was the best decision I ever made, and now I look forward to going to his last game on April 13, having bought tickets at face value MINUTES after he announced his retirement in November.
Aram Palamoudian, Los Angeles
More than game
When my best friend was dying of cancer, I would go to the home she was at and I would watch all the games with her. That helped her smile when so many things didn’t. When she passed, the flowers were purple and gold. Thank you, Kobe Bryant.
Diana Corral, San Fernando
Meeting Bryant at the Forum
I met Kobe Bryant when I was about 16 years old at the Great Western Forum at the tunnels. My nephew and I were waiting for the players as they left the Forum. We were at the fence and Kobe came out of his car.
He was saying “hello” and signing memorabilia and there was a small kid who kept screaming on the top of his lungs, “Kobe!” As Bryant approached, the kid asked if he could have his shoes. He smiled, took off his shoes, signed them and gave them to the kid. This memory has always stayed with me, as it was the first time we met Kobe. We also got to take a photo with him.
Kobe epitomizes the term “franchise player.” They are rare. Every team wishes they could find a “Kobe"-like franchise player to build around. Kobe gave his all, and I thank him for that.
Mo Alonzo, Los Angeles
Bryant’s greatness will be appreciated when he’s gone
Greatest Laker of All-Time. I know there are many who would disagree but I truly believe people will feel that way more and more after he has finally left the sport. You never know how good something is until it’s gone.
Only got to see him play once in a game against the Clippers. But I’m happy I was able to witness that. He had an amazing alley-oop dunk that blew the lid off of Staples Center.
Growing up in St. Louis, we did not have an NBA team, so I didn’t follow basketball as much but knew about the great Lakers teams from the past. Once I moved to L.A. in 2007, I saw firsthand how important this club is to the city, and Kobe Bryant was the most important piece to those championships teams. Not only did he make the Lakers L.A.'s No. 1 team, he also got fans from all over the world to root for this city. A true ambassador of the game.
Matt Hirschfeld, Los Angeles
It’s been rough these few years and this season being his last, but he is Mr. L.A., Black Mamba, Vino, Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant.
— Sean Van Arsdale, Lancaster
Catching his attention
To me, Kobe is someone who I’ve always admired. The result of his hard work is clearly seen through his actions. He’s one who knows how to achieve what he wants and stays humble at the same time.
One specific memory I have of Kobe is when I watched a home game against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center.
There was one particular game where we were seated closer to the court.
Before taking his free-throw shots, I would scream his name out loud. He never did look over. This did not keep me from screaming his name even louder. Screaming from the top of my lungs, he finally looked!
I was able to get a snapshot of him. It was then and there where I was in awe that this great basketball player locked eyes with me through the lens. It was amazing to have been in his presence. Not only did it inspire me, but it made me cherish the moments I would have with my father. He and I would attend basketball games all the time. Now that we are separated, it saddens me. Now, when I do see Kobe ... I am reminded about the good times my father and I had at the home games.
The game of basketball is more than a hoop, a ball and its athletes. It’s about the priceless and precious moments you spend courtside with the people you love.
Kristina Protacio, Glendale
It was hard not to love Kobe Bryant
As a child in Southern California, it was tough to not fall in love with Kobe Bryant. As soon as I gravitated toward the Lakers, I gravitated toward Kobe. I don’t remember much of watching Michael Jordan play in the ‘90s. But I grew up with Kobe, and for me, that’s almost better.
I met Kobe after my sophomore year of college at the University of Northern Colorado. I was home for the summer and had an internship in my hometown with the Santa Barbara Independent. This was just a few months after the 2010 title. I was somehow assigned to cover his skills academy at UCSB. There was a small meeting with media before he went out and did a lot of work with the kids. In a room full of reporters with far more experience than 19-year-old me, I was chosen to speak one-on-one with him first. I only had five minutes, and I wasn’t a great interviewer yet, but it remains my favorite interview ever.
I am now 24 and currently work as a high school sports reporter in North Dakota. My experience with Kobe convinced me that sports reporting was what I wanted to do with my life. And I know from that day I wanted to improve so that I could one day interview him yet again. I think I’m pretty far away from that at this point, but I’m not giving up on it.
When you think about it, Kobe was the most dominant player for, what, 10 or 12 years? And an elite player for another five? All told, that’s extremely difficult in today’s NBA when everybody is so much more athletic, I think, than what the ‘80s and ‘90s were. For Kobe to be so good for so long in this era, it speaks to how great his career really was.
Parker Cotton, Dickinson, N.D.
A talented and spoiled man-child who has to have everything his way. The Lakers allowed it to happen, and I can see the results every day and they are not good.
— Clive Grafton, Nipomo, Calif.
He was everything I love, and hate
Kobe represents everything I love and hate about sports. On one hand, his mastery! Watching him fly through the air was better to behold than any ballerina in Los Angeles. On the other hand, his hubris! When he wouldn’t take responsibility for his scandal, or later even share the ball, Kobe became like all the other players who make me doubt male athletes and feminism can peacefully coexist.
My niece was only 7 years old when she asked, “What’s assault?” I was so shocked I couldn’t speak, so my 9-year-old nephew (who worshiped Kobe) replied, “It’s when you hurt somebody.” Kobe Bryant was the cause of one of the most heartbreaking conversations I’ve witnessed -- I’ll never forgive him for spoiling the innocence of so many kids.
Do we discourage children from idolizing athletes, who all seem to screw up eventually? I don’t have a solution.
Kobe Bryant felt like a friend
I’m only one year older than Kobe, so I essentially grew up watching him play and I always felt like I had so much in common with him. The love of basketball, obviously, but also other interests like watching movies, traveling to China, and being a resident in Orange Country. It always felt like Kobe was a friend. If I had a tough day at school or at work, I could always look forward to watching Kobe play if there was a Lakers game, and it would instantly cheer me up. For those two hours, I could get lost and mesmerized by Kobe’s moves on the court.
Kobe had so many memorable moments on the court, and I shouted and screamed at the television through each and every one. But off the court, meeting Kobe in person was the most memorable. It was important because it was a chance to shake his hand, look him in the eye and say “thank you” for just being who he was and how much he meant to millions of fans like myself.
Kobe was such a polarizing figure on the court. I can recall endless conversations with friends, family, and basketball players during pick-up games in which people said they “hated” Kobe. Hate was such a strong word. I always asked, “Why?” They simply didn’t like his attitude, or thought that he was selfish. But there was one thing you couldn’t question -- his desire, hard work and determination. His intensity, fearlessness and ability to play through pain separated him from everyone else and defined him as a Hall of Famer and legend that he is today.
Dru Chai, Tustin
Kobe is the G.O.A.T and to me he represents the will to win and not give up. I’m really gonna miss Kobe. Thank you for all the wonderful memories and championships.
— Albert Gomez, Downey
Kobe Bryant is an icon
Coming out of college I worked at KCAL (Channel) 9 as a media sales assistant. As such, I was fortunate enough to go to, I believe, 22 games in three seasons, in which I had a 20-2 record. I always joked the Lakers should keep me around. Before that, I’d go to a game or two every season.
I was at the 81-point game in the rafters. I literally could touch the back wall. I had just moved from Los Angeles to Orange County for college, and didn’t want to make the commute. But my friend pushed me to go, and I’ll never forget the electricity pumping through my veins as I witnessed history.
There is so much good with Kobe, but I also appreciate the bad. It’s funny, many events in his career I would relate to things happening in my life. 2013 was a tough year for me, and that’s when he popped his Achilles. We both had to go on a journey of healing after that.
I missed my high school graduation to be at Game 2 of the 2002 NBA Finals against the Nets. I had a sign that read “I’m missing my graduation to be here, Go Lakers!” That game I happened to be wearing my Robert Horry jersey, ‘cause I had to spread the love, but I was put on the Jumbotron and everyone cheered. That was special too.
He’s important to me because I’ve been able to relate to him even though I’m not a professional athlete. I’ll always be grateful for that. And I’ll never have it again with an athlete in my adult age.
Jason Kornfeld, Santa Clarita
I’ll never view basketball the same way again
Kobe Bryant is the game of basketball to me. I’ve been a fan since he was traded from Charlotte to the Lakers. I watched him grow as a player and person. Through all the coaching changes, different teammates and the number change. I moved to L.A. from Indianapolis nine months ago, and I am so happy I was able to watch Kobe play his last Easter Sunday game at Staples Center. His love for the game and his lasting impact on the game and the world is legendary.
I don’t think I’ll ever view basketball the same way. Kobe worked hard as a player and earned his respect. Kobe’s five championships with the same team when the NBA was constantly changing is magical. His loyalty to the Lakers and the game is rare, and he will missed. I have a new love and respect for the game because of Kobe Bryant.
Jazmin Zinnerman, Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant to me is a reminder of the old days when a superstar player would stay with one team his entire career. That just doesn’t happen anymore in this day and age ...
— Jeff Swanson, Everett, Wash.
Emulating his work ethic and drive
Kobe Bryant made [basketball] seem like more than just a sport.
During the time that I played organized basketball, I was our team’s leader and I tried my best to lead like Kobe did. I never missed a practice, I played through every injury, I worked hard. He wasn’t the player I based my game off of like other people probably did, but I based my values and work ethic off him.
He changed my whole perspective of basketball, made me fall in love with it to the point where for the four to five years that I seriously played, I would play six to eight hours a day. His values have shaped who I was as a player and who I am as a person.
Afra Nariman, Los Angeles
A one-man show
I remember viewing in regret that his teammates never got better as they played with Kobe. I think that’s what made Michael Jordan better. Every player who played with Jordan got better with time. No player has ever gotten better when playing with Kobe.
That’s the game I saw, but it’s hard to be patient with other players when your game is so elevated beyond.
Nap Wade, Riverside
An older-brother type
I was 9 years old old when I was first introduced to Kobe. He was so cool. He was like an older-brother type figure.
When I was 10, I was listening to the radio and heard Kobe was gonna be at the Glendale Galleria signing autographs, and had to be there. I wore a Nick Van Exel jersey to this meet-and-greet and he signed a small basketball. He was the first professional player I ever met. The next day, I bought his shoes. It was important to me because, this was the first time I met a Laker.
He showed me how to play the game in a mental level, how that was more important than the physical aspect of the game.
He was my idol
Growing up in Los Angeles in the late ‘90s. early 2000s, Kobe was my basketball idol -- the person you fantasize about being in the backyard shooting hoops as a youngster.
The basketball idol is an important part of a youth basketball player’s development: Kobe idolized Jordan; players a few years younger than me idolized LeBron James. Now Stephen Curry is who kids try to be in the backyard.
The boyish capacity to idolize athletes fades with age, so most people only get one idol in their lifetime. Though I still regularly shoot and play pickup or adult-league ball, fantasizing about being anyone but my basketball idol would be weird -- I’m nearly the same age as Curry. Kobe will always be the player I think of when I envision hitting my next shot.
Kobe’s fire, work ethic and willingness to do anything and everything to win had a big impact on my worldview. The secondary headline on Mark Heisler’s article after Kobe’s fifth championship perfectly encapsulates his career and his greatness: “He makes shots others don’t take.” I still have that headline laminated and posted on my wall.
I saw Kobe at Disneyland once a few years ago, and, overcome with excitement, I ran off and left my girlfriend in line at the Matterhorn in hopes of shaking his hand. The mob was huge and I felt bad crowding him when he was with his family so I wandered back to my confused and upset girlfriend and had to explain how/why he was so important to me. That girlfriend ended up getting me a signed basketball of his for my birthday later that year but then stole it when we broke up. I miss the ball more than her.
Max Mossler, Northridge
The game needs more young players with Kobe’s dedication, and so far only Stephen Curry has that dedication (would love to see Curry in purple and gold).
— Billy Lynch, Los Angeles
I was there
I grew up with Kobe. Literally. I was 4 years old when he turned pro in 1996. Although I don’t remember much from his first few years with the purple-and-gold, he somehow became a fixture in my life. Growing up in Los Angeles with the Lakers being the dominant NBA franchise in the early 2000s, he was my idol. I tried to play like him, dress like him, and act like him, not realizing a lanky, skinny kid from Marina del Rey would never be able to dunk or play in the NBA. Shocking, I know.
When he won his first and only MVP award, I was there. When the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, I was there. When he tore his Achilles against the Warriors, I was there. When he made his return against the Raptors, I was there. Fast-forward past the fractured kneecap and torn rotator cuff to opening night of the 2015-2016 season, I was there. His 20th season, all with the Lakers. Lawrence Tanter, the Lakers longtime PA announcer bellows the words, “And the other guard wears number 24” and the entire Staples Center crowd explodes with recognition. There were tears in my eyes as I knew, even before he announced his retirement, this would be his last opening night of his career. Tears of joy, knowing we will never see a player like Kobe again and how blessed I have been to watch him every single game. Tears of sadness, tears of disappointment, that he is actually retiring, tears of respect, for all he has given this city.
With Kobe’s retirement just around the corner, it’s not even about basketball anymore. The Lakers are rebuilding, and are not even close to being the team they will be in the future. It’s about Kobe. It’s simply about embracing and relishing this young kid from Philly who has made Los Angeles his home and has grown up before our eyes. “You asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart.” You gave us more than that, Kobe. You gave us a reason to believe, and for that I will always be forever grateful. Make these last ... games the most memorable you possibly can and remember, come April when you come out of that tunnel of Staples for your last home game, I will be there. Tears in my eyes, as we say goodbye to the greatest of all time.
Kevin Lichtig, West Hollywood
Hated him before he became a Kobe fan
Kobe is a fearless, relentless competitor. When I first started watching basketball, at a young age, as a Kings fan, I hated him. Couldn’t stand to see him win. Hated his fade-away. Hated how cocky he was. Hated everything about him.
Then, as I became older, I couldn’t help but respect the drive this man has. It’s like nothing like I’ve ever seen. He’s completely obsessed with the game of basketball. That’s when I became a Kobe/Laker fan.
Kobe Bryant has shown me how you should approach the game of basketball, or anything you love. He gave everything he had to the game, heart and soul. He is the most dedicated, hardworking, fearless competitor I’ve ever seen.
Tell me what Kobe Bryant means to you on Twitter @mattwilhalme
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