To say the basketball world was forever changed yesterday, January 26, 2020, still feels like an understatement. Kobe Bryant’s impact and influence transcends all boundaries. He exemplified what it meant to be a competitor in every sense of the word, and that is something that everyone, regardless of their occupation or life circumstances, can relate to.
Kobe Bryant played his last game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 22nd, 2016. After the game had ended, a 108-101 Bucks victory, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kobe shared a moment on the court amidst a flurry of media members eager to catch a glimpse of a symbolic and important moment in the young career of Giannis.
#34 recorded his first career triple-double that night. From that point on, Kobe was a mentor for Giannis, supporting him and challenging him to keep building on his unlimited potential and continue his ascension as a player.
Prior to the 2017-18 NBA season, Kobe Bryant tweeted out challenges for NBA stars to complete. Some had to do with stats, some with rings, some with personal accolades. Bryant challenged Giannis to win the MVP. Two years later, Giannis completed that challenge and became the league Most Valuable Player at the age of 24. Winning that award was and is a testament to Giannis’ continued growth as a leader. And Kobe was proud of him. He tweeted at Giannis afterwards saying:
“My Man… MVP. Greatness. Next up: Championship. #MambaMentality”
Having watched Bryant and Antetokounmpo excel in their respective eras, the similarities the two possess in terms of love for basketball, loyalty, competitive spirit, and family values are clear. Seeing how much Kobe loved and supported his children reminds me of the endless support that Giannis shows for his brothers and his entire family.
Moreover, in many ways, Giannis has carried on the same style Kobe possessed as a player. Supreme confidence, relentless competitiveness without loss of composure, toughness through adversity, and leadership are some of the hallmark traits that are consistent between the both of them.
Kobe’s infinite legacy will live on through players like Giannis and countless others.
Here’s hoping that everyone, not only Giannis, who had a bond or relationship with Kobe Bryant can find the support they need in this time of indescribable confusion, anger and sorrow that is palpable throughout basketball community and the world at large. Rest in peace to Kobe, Gianna, and all others involved in this extremely shocking tragedy.