The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are two of the greatest rivalry teams in the history of NBA basketball. Both teams have generated multiple superstar players who became Hall of Famers. From these two teams, millions of fans across the globe would argue who was the best among them. Of those fans, there is me, a Celtic’s fan and my husband, who is a Laker fan. We were debating who would go down in history as one of the greatest Lakers, would it be Kobe Bryant or Lebron James? Of course, I could care less since I was a Celtic fan, but for the sake of argument, I agreed with hubby that Kobe was the greatest Laker of all time.
Kobe’s ‘Mamba’ mentality, tenacious work ethic, amazing athleticism, and determination to win is what makes him a better player than Lebron. Kobe is also a 5-time NBA Champion, 18-time All-Star, an MVP, and he averaged 25 points per game. Kobe would far accede the expectations of critics who thought the cocky lanky kid from Philadelphia would ever become a champion yet along win 5 rings. To seal his legacy, Kobe scored an amazing 60 points before walking off the court gracefully into retirement. I had never seen a farewell tour by a basketball player, but I felt at the time it complemented Kobe’s condescending persona. “Kobe was a great player, but Lebron has a better attitude,” I had said to my husband while debating. You could say I was still bitter from losing to Kobe and the Lakers in the NBA Championship in 2010, but unbeknown to me, my feelings toward Kobe would soon change.
Sunday, January 26th that very next day was like any normal day in my household. After Sunday worship, we came home and settled in. I turned on the TV and noticed the crawl bar read, Kobe Bryant Dies in a Helicopter Crash. I thought, NO WAY! Hubby and I were just talking about Kobe the night before. I flipped the channel and almost every news reporter was sharing the shocking news about the crash and fatality. I immediately shouted for my husband to come into the room. “Kobe Bryant died!” I pointed to the TV so he could read the crawl bar too. “Unbelievable! I can’t believe it!” my husband was in shock. He has always been a Laker fan and Kobe Bryant had been one of his favorite players.
As a Celtics fan, my disdain for the Lakers and Kobe was overshadowed with sympathy and compassion after learning the news of Kobe's death, along with his daughter, Gianna, and 7 others. At the end of the day, Kobe was a human being, a husband, a family man, and a mentor to those who knew him well. My feelings turned to deep sorrow for his wife and 3 daughters that he left behind. I cried because as a mother and a wife myself, I could not imagine what Kobe's wife and family were experiencing in that tragic moment. My feelings were probably similar to when Larry Bird learned Earvin "Magic" Johnson had HIV, he cried. They were two rivalries- a Celtic and a Laker, yet, Larry Bird cried when he heard about Magic. He realized that basketball wasn’t the most important thing in the world, life was. How thankful we are that Magic Johnson is still with us, and what we knew about HIV back in the 80s were not facts. Still, it's moments like that that teach us to value the more important things in life. Kobe’s death no doubt has taught me and others of this generation that our lives could change in an instant or be taken away. For that reason, I'm happy that Kobe lived his life to the fullest. He had always said he tried to play every game as if it was his last. I admit, he played it well, even if it was beating my Celtics.
The good thing is, Kobe left behind a blueprint for the younger generation to follow. Shoot your shot while you still can. Once the ball goes out of bounds, the game of life is over. For what it’s worth, the man I despised and hated losing to is the same man I wished was still here…taking the last shot.