By BRANDON MARTIN
A mural of Kobe Bryant in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California
Editor’s note: Brandon Martin, a junior basketball player with USC Upstate, wrote a tribute to NBA great Kobe Bryant, during the spring semester. Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, “Gigi”, and seven other passengers were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. in Calabasas, Calif. Martin’s story was scheduled to be published in The Carolinian, but when COVID-19 forced the campus to close, it delayed the publication of this story.
As a basketball player you fall in love with the game and you idolize certain players when you become a fan. I look up to a lot of NBA greats such as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant and others. I have always been fascinated with Kobe Bean Bryant. Just seeing his dedication to the game is like no other. He would always push his teammates and coaches to higher levels.
Michael Jordan is arguably the best player to play the game of basketball and Kobe Bryant wanted to be just like Mike. Jordan frequently mentions how Kobe would ask him a million basketball questions how to improve his game. Jordan said Kobe was a sponge and would soak up everything he would tell him. This shows how dedicated Kobe was because to be the best you have to learn from the best. Not everyone is willing to put the time and work in to be great, but Kobe did.
Growing up in Miami, Fla., I was a big Miami Heat fan, especially when Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were together. My sister was a big Los Angeles Lakers fan and she loved Kobe Bryant.
When both teams would play each other, the house would be upside down...literally. We would trash talk, get loud, and argue over our teams. Lebron James is my favorite player and Kobe is hers. There was a lot of back and forth between us. I wasn’t a fan of Kobe back then, but I respected him because he played the game the right way and works his tail off.
My father is a big Kobe Bryant fan and he would always talk about how Kobe was a fierce competitor, how much time he spent on the game, his love for the game, and how hard Kobe played. My father loves watching and coaching players that play hard, that’s what made him really love Kobe Bryant. (Editor's note: Brandon’s father is Frank Martin, the University of South Carolina men's head basketball coach.)
After hearing a lot about Kobe, I decided to start watching him more often. I remember watching him go nuts against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day in 2012. He and Carmelo Anthony went at each other, it was a really good game. Bryant finished with 34 points, five rebounds, and one assist, in a 100 - 94 win. He had very good footwork and was an offensive threat. I fell in love with the way Kobe played the game.
I tuned into every Lakers game I was able to watch. Their games would come on around midnight Eastern time, but I would be locked in watching Kobe Bryant. I would get all his Nike edition shirts, jackets, shorts, and shoes when I could. I still do today. I would wear them whenever I had the opportunity and I jumped on the “Black Mamba”
Watching Kobe’s interviews and how he spoke taught me a lot about what type of man he was. I didn’t grow up in the Jordan era, but I have watched many films and I could see the similarities between Michael and Kobe. It was amazing watching them compete against each other and Kobe never backed down, which is why Jordan has always had the most respect for him. Other NBA greats that played in the NBA or are playing, all showed respect to Kobe
Bryant had an amazing 20 years in the NBA with the Lakers, which his resume shows. He ended his career with a 60-point explosion against the Utah Jazz in the Stables Center, his home arena. What a way to go out than with a bang. The cherry on top was that the Lakers won, 101-96.
I remember a lot of moments Bryant’s his career, that game especially. Two years after Kobe retired, on January 26, the world got the shocking news that the former NBA superstar had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. He was 41-years old.
I remember looking at my phone thinking the news was fake and my heart literally dropped. I was so shocked to see one of my favorite players lose his life. It was heartbreaking. I remember calling my mother and father telling them, they couldn’t believe it.