By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
I still haven’t wrapped my head around the untimely demise of my favourite basketball player ever, Kobe Bean Bryant, aka “The Black Mamba.”
Maybe I’m still in shock, or I’m in denial, so forgive me if I ramble this week, my heart is heavy.
I have been and will always be, a Laker for life.
I have a healthy respect for Anthony David and Yannis (I’m not even trying to spell his last name).
I enjoy watching both of them play, but they are “bigs”, uber talented, but “bigs” nonetheless.
I’ve always rooted for guards, my favourite players early on were “Magic”
Jordan, “Penny” and then along came Kobe and it was over.
From the very first time I saw Kobe play in the McDonalds All American High School Classic, I was going to root for this kid, despite the noise in the market,
Bryant had game, passion and work ethic, well begond his years.
It got even better he was traded to my Lakers on draft night in 1996, for Vlade Divac and it was on.
“Magic” was gone “Shaq” was arriving in LA and I was going to root for the kid fresh out of Lower Marion high school in Philadelphia, who would be ‘Robin’ to Shaq’s ‘Batman’ and lead the Lakers back to the Finals and more importantly Championships.
Kobe did just that and more, rewarding me and my fellow Lakers fans loyalty, with twenty seasons of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, records, championships and indelible memories in our minds of championships winning and greatness.
Not to mention the infamous 81 point game, and the 60 point performance as he was walking out the door, and into retirement.
Priceless memories captured in still frames in our minds and those priceless memories are something even death can’t take away.
I’ve learnt through the passing of my mother, aunt and “Big Cup” never to question God’s perfect timing.
However, I’m still deeply saddened to know his beautiful, talented, daughter Gianna, a basketball prodigy in her own right, also perished with her father, who she obviously loved and adored endlessly.
I feel cheated not to see her follow in her dad’s footsteps and dominate women’s basketball in the NCAA and WNBA.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother” was Kobe’s last tweet to LeBronJames.
I hope LeBron does just that before he retires.
I feel like Kobe was speaking to all of us, in regards to moving the game forward, so I will, my Laker allegiance and loyalty are undying and unquestioned.
But as I no longer have a “favourite player” to root for, and you all know Kobe is my all time favourite player, active or retired, even passing “Magic” which is a Herculean feat in its own right, and now he’s gone.
I will most certainly keep his legacy alive, I will also move the game forward, like he wanted, by embracing one of today’s young stars and root for him with the same conviction and passion I did for Kobe.
So with that being said, taking nothing away from Buddy Heild, who has a special place in my basketball heart, please meet –
Ja Morant, G Memphis Grizzlies, he reminds me of a young Kobe and Iverson all in one, but he’s got that ‘Mamba’ mentality and his number 12 is half of 24 so he’s half Mamba for sure.
I will cheer him on to be MambaVersion2, even more so if Laker brass can one day land him and make a Laker.
Hopefully, Ja will reward me by helping me fill this gaping hole in my basketball heart left by Kobe and his untimely demise.
Ahhh Kobe, my Kobe, let’s go Ja!
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