When Kobe Bryant released his heart-wrenching poem, “Dear Basketball,” in November of 2015, where he detailed the dissolution of his obsessive love for the game, an entire generation was left with a bittersweet feeling for their fallen hero.
Bryant’s larger than life presence on the court for nearly twenty years could easily be described as vigorous and unmistakably authoritative. From the very beginning, his transcendent performance inspired a host of mini afro wearing fanatics, bearing the number 8 on their chests, vicariously living through one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. Bryant was a symbol of supernatural talent, an immortal being. Growing up with the mentality that “ball is life,” was birthed and confirmed time and time again as a result of Bryant’s ferocious dunks and wet jumpers. There was nothing he couldn’t do. There was no one that could stop him. After all, he was the ‘Black Mamba’. He was a deadly force not to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, the Black Mamba’s venom weakened over time and Bryant’s mortality became the feature film for an entire generation to see. He was human. He was not a God. He was not a superhero. Although his sluggish demeanor on the court may have suggested that his body was no longer equipped to perform at an all-star level, our generation was not ready to part ways with the man who changed basketball forever. We all saw it coming and frankly, Bryant saw it too; however, admitting his mortality was essentially closing a twenty year chapter. Admitting his mortality was parting ways with a lover and being left with only the memories. The Black Mamba’s love for the game of basketball was met by an entire generation that ferociously loved him back. And in the same way that Bryant can no longer obsessively love basketball, we must also let him go and close this phenomenal chapter in basketball history.
What does Kobe Bryant’s retirement mean for an entire generation? His retirement is a wake up call for our generation. When Kobe announced his retirement, it was as if our alarms went off at 7:30 a.m., urging us to let go of the things we love most and welcome a change. We dragged ourselves out of bed, clinging to our memories and fighting the urge to throw a fit like a 2-year-old child that needs a nap and possibly a diaper change. The void we felt was impossible to ignore. What could basketball by any means be without Kobe Bryant? The feeling we had watching Kobe play on our oversized television sets in the family room couldn’t possibly compare to any other player in the league today. But there was no denying it: The time had come to say goodbye.
Kobe’s retirement is a blank page, a new chapter waiting to be written. Perhaps even a new chapter that is already being written. Bryant’s retirement serves as the catalyst for a change, a change for the game of basketball as well as a change for the life of Kobe Bryant. He will have to adjust. He will have to settle into a life that is not highlighted by his immortal accomplishments during home and away games. Bryant will have to find comfort in being what once was as he adjusts to everyday life off the court. In the same way that he trained his body to perform in a certain manner for two decades, he will have to learn different habits. Our generation will also have to adjust, no matter how painful this new lifestyle may be.
The Black Mamba will never be forgotten, just like his love for basketball will never be forgotten. His legacy will live on through the blood and sweat he left on the Lakers’ court, the players he has forever inspired, and those still frame photographs of you with a mini afro and a number 8 jersey. He will know that he is loved, always.
Guest Post by Christyna Pourhabib