Dear Kobe: From A Spurs Fan

It was always one of my favorite pictures to send in a group chat that I have with my friends....a picture of Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant's trophies being compared side by side.  That picture was always meant to take a stab at many of my friends favorite player, Kobe Bryant.  I did it because I know how much they thought of him and how much it would upset them to hear that I believed that my favorite was better than theirs.
Today, I deleted that picture.
Timmy is and will forever be my favorite basketball player and maybe even favorite athlete of all time.  I hold him in the highest regards and only ever compare him to other greats.  What made Tim great to me was not all the championships, or the MVPs, but knowing that he went to battle against Shaq and Kobe and won....well, sometimes.  Shaq and Kobe were giants in my eyes; mythological figures to me.   They were the best of the best and very rarely were beat and I was proud that Tim and the rest of the Spurs were good enough to stand toe-to-toe with them.  But today, none of that seems relevant.
I'm typing this nearly 24 hours after I heard the news for the first time, "...Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash.  He was 41," and I am still as shook-to-the-core as I was that very first moment.  I didn't think it would affect me like this, but it has.  For years I couldn't stand him.  I couldn't fathom how he was always putting himself in good defensive positions, or how he could contort his body mid-air to change his jump shot, or how he would go on 10-0 runs by himself when his team needed it most.  For so long I told myself he didn't deserve to be named with the greats, but today, I'm man enough to admit that it was all a front.  He was not only one of the very best to ever play the game, but someone who as a public figure carried himself with respect and was a man of dignity.  I respected how he was portrayed.  He spoke highly of his family in any and every interview I ever saw him in.  That's what I remember most about Kobe.
The Legend that is Kobe Bryant started way before he was a fresh faced, year-removed from high school, rookie in the NBA.  Way before he was an NBA MVP, or an NBA champion, he was a kid who loved to play the game of basketball.  He was a kid who grew up to be a young man who decided to dedicate his time and his efforts to that game he loved.  And as a man, he worked on his craft to near perfection.  He was flashy, but he was a fierce competitor.  He was everything his fans could've ever hoped for, including myself.
As I reflect,  I'm now realizing that my favorite player of all time, and legend in my eyes, can only be considered as such because he battled against other legends.  Kobe Bryant might very well be the main reason why my favorite player was so great.  I couldn't be any more appreciative of the times I got to see Kobe ball out, even if it was against my guys.  
The truth about the life of a man is not what he does, but the legend which he creates around himself.  With that being said, man, I can't wait for the day that I get to tell my kids about him scoring 81 points, after tearing his achilles in the first quarter of an NBA finals game 7, while playing 1 vs 5.
#RIPKobe #RIPGigi #MambaOut

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