Today marks an historic day in my life. Kobe Bryant hits the court for the very last time. I can honestly say that it is difficult to recall a time in my life that #24 (#8 first and always to me) wasn't suiting up for the purple and gold. 5 rings, 2 gold medals, 2 finals MVP's and a regular season MVP are merely a taste of the countless "Kobe moments" that the last 20 years has brought us. The dunk over Yao, the lob to Shaq, the 81 point game (sorry Raptor fans). All of these moments are forever ingrained in my memory.
An athlete myself growing up, Kobe sat among my pantheon of personal role models, right next to Ken Griffey Jr. MIchael Jordan, Steve Young and Wayne Gretzky. I was and still continue to be avid Laker fan. Something that in the NBA world is akin to being a band-wagoner at best and a Trump supporter at worst. But no matter how much hate was generated from the outside, I was and will always proud to support them and Kobe's legacy. Eventually due to a spinal injury, I would put my sports career behind me and enter into the wonderful world of theatre. This was a field that I had absolutely no knowledge of aside from my passing knowledge of the lyrics to 'Grease Lighting"
It was in these early days when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, that I found myself turning to Mamba for spiritual guidance in the form of epsn highlights. Baseball, my first love, had become hard for me to watch because I knew I could no longer do it. Basketball on the other hand was my saving grace. Any time that I found myself wondering why I had decided no to pursue an office job, or what the hell sense memory really was, all I had to do was go home and watch the Lakers march their way to a second NBA title in a row. 2010 was a good year.
As the years passed, 24 started showing his age. The 97 dunk contest seems like a lifetime ago and former rivals like Allen Iverson were enjoying careers in the graveyards of foreign leagues. Still Kobe kept his resolve. And so did I. I would read stories from trainers about his insane work ethic. 10 hour workout sessions, 1 on 1 games to 100, and playing with an invisible ball. Some of these might be hyperbolic, but just barely. His dedication to his sport, his craft, was something that will go down in the history books. I may have been 10 years removed from breaking out my reverse fadeaway on the playground, but this was not the case with my new life focus. I would scratch and claw through every tap class, every bad improv set and every terrible sketch until I could be just at good at storytelling as he was at basketball.
I am still a universe worth of lightyears away from where I want to be. And in all honesty I may never get there, but that will never stop me from engaging in what I am trying to do. Perhaps if more people in the creative realm took technique as seriously as Kobe took his jumper, there would be a lot fewer "starving artists". I realized that being creative is way more than just coming up with ideas, or wanting to act out someone else's. You have to find it in yourself to work harder and push farther than anyone around you. Are you really willing to get up at 3:30 in the morning everyday to work on what you love. If you're not you should really reconsider your career goals. Or at least be always satisfied with mediocrity. I have you to thank for that Kobe. You will probably never read this, and you definitely won't know the impact you have had but thank's for capturing my imagination and turning me into that kid on the playground who wanted to be just like you. Bye Mamba