I’ve got a lot of great memories from college. I think of my time in undergrad as “The good ol’ days”. With the hustle of starting a business and making it the focal point of my life, I’ve since lost touch with a lot of my friends from college. Some purposefully and others simply due to distance or time. Nevertheless, I often reminisce about those good ol’ days with those good ol' people, and there’s nothing I’d change about my time in college. So many insanely good memories, and some nights that I can’t remember due to alcohol blackouts, all make up a hell of a college experience.
Somewhere situated toward the end of my college career lies one fantastic evening spent at the bar getting burgers, quesadillas and beers with my best friends. Though we had many nights like this one, there was something a little different about this one; It was the night that Kobe Bryant, the sports icon, legend and major influence that I’d known for my entire life, was set to play his final game in the NBA. A career that literally spanned 95% of my entire life (at that time) and 20 seasons was coming to a close. Thousands of games, five championships and a reputation as the GOAT to many would be over in just a few hours.
As we crowded ourselves into the gastropub, I remember seeing Kobe’s face on every TV in there. He was an icon, and everyone was there to see him play. It was as if we were all putting a proverbial bow on our childhoods, as the man we’d seen dominate the league for the last twenty years was lacing up for the final time. It was the end of our childhoods, our youths, and for me, my college career. And we all knew it. As much as there was excitement, there was also a sense of bittersweet in the air as we knew the time had come: We were officially grown-ups.
Earlier that season, Shaq had laughingly told Kobe he better drop 50 in his final game. We all laughed when he said that given that he was in his late thirties. Everyone from casual fans to Stephen A. Smith and LeBron James were going to be watching, and while not everyone expected 50 points, we did hope for a win.
As the night wore on, we all shared our greatest memories of watching Kobe play. Be it him dropping 81 against the Celtics in a single game, winning multiple championships alongside Shaq or seeing him jaw with other players like Dwight Howard, we all remembered great moments. Much like those moments we saw, we shared the stories we’d heard. Disputes with Shaq, 4 am workouts, insane scrimmages with his teammates and of course the 1000 shots a day. More than anything, we all remember the time he shot two free throws with a torn Achilles, certainly one of the worst injuries a basketball player can sustain. While LeBron or Jordan were considered the goats, Kobe was in a league of his own when it came to his will power, competitiveness and work ethic.
Three hours, dozens of beers and some burgers later, the game was over. A 20-season-career had finally come to a close. I think Shaq said it best when he said, "I challenged him to get 50 and the motherfucker got 60". Kobe consistently exceeded expectations, no matter how high they were. He was and will always be an icon, and it's so sad to think that the best was yet to come. He was supposed to go on to own a team, become a billionaire, see his daughters play in the WNBA and win more Oscars. It wasn't supposed to go down like this, man. But unfortunately, it did. And so all we can do is be thankful for what we did get to see, even if it was too brief. In other words, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Nah, fuck it. Let's all have a cry.
Kobe Bryant was a profoundly impactful individual and one that I expect the world to mourn for many years to come. What I hope we can all remember from him is his work ethic and competitive edge. Whether it’s sports, entrepreneurship, acting or something else, to be the best, you’ve got to have an edge. You’ve got to be the first in and the last out. You’ve got to be the last one up and the first one awake. You’ve got to have that MAMBA Mentality.
A few short weeks after Kobe’s final game, I graduated college and it was time to start on my journey. Over friends, relationships or any number of other distractions, I chose to pursue entrepreneurship at all costs. Believe me, it did cost me. It’s not been easy to build a business from nothing to 20,000+ users, and I certainly do miss the days where “Burger or Quesadilla?” was the hardest choice I’d have to make on a given night. But like Kobe, obviously, on a smaller scale, I wanted to be great, and that required sacrifice. It was challenging, but looking back, it was well worth it.
Thank you, Kobe. You may have passed on, but your legacy never will.
RIP to the legend, Kobe, “The Mamba”, Bryant.