Raptors Cage

Raptors Cage Remembers Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant passed away at the age of 41 today, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. Kobe was a 5-time Champion, 18-time All-Star and one of the most popular basketball players of all time. We put together our thoughts on a tragic day for basketball:

Jared Goodman

Seeing the parentheses with 1978-2020 beside Kobe Bryant’s name made a surreal day feel real. Over the next few weeks, tributes will pour in from everybody who knew, idolized or grew up with Kobe. When somebody dies, it’s important to celebrate the way they impacted the world, but there’s no doubt the NBA season will have a dark, tragedy-stricken cloud surrounding it.

It’s funny, Kobe was always the athlete I loved to hate the most. I loved to argue why he wasn’t on the same level as Shaq or that his larger-than-life personality made him more beloved in LA than he should’ve been. But the thing about Kobe Bryant is that, if nothing else, he made people feel passionate. Root for or against him, Kobe’s unparalleled persona invoked emotions from those who love basketball. And isn’t that what sports are all about?

Kobe got to the point where he was bigger than the actual Lakers organization itself. Still, the most amazing thing about him wasn’t the love he earned from fans or how he intrigued the media like few others, but rather his respect from other players. People can argue about his numbers in the box score, however there is no way to quantify the way that other basketball players- the best of the best- respect and idolize him. Ask Kevin Durant about Kobe Bryant and his eyes will light up more than for any athlete, including Michael Jordan. Ask LeBron James the same thing. Kobe’s biggest fans weren’t the city that loved him, but the players we all love.

Above all else, today was a reminder that life is precious. Kobe Bryant, a 5x Champion and 18x All-Star, seemed too legendary and immortal for this to happen to. But it did. If you have an issue with someone else, no matter how big or small, figure it out. It’s worth it.

Reuben Ahn

I couldn’t believe what I laid my eyes upon. From first glance, it was the most devastating and tear-jerking news that I have ever experienced. Words cannot emphasize the impact and legacy of Kobe Bryant, one of the most accomplished NBA players ever. His unmatched mentality and outlook on life earned him great respect from his peers and will continue to inspire future generations. I personally will never forget the man who sparked my love for the NBA and essentially transformed it into a religion.

I will forever cherish my decision to tune into Kobe’s final game over the Warriors’ record-shattering victory. The night of April 13, 2016, I witnessed one of the most emotionally overpowering performances in sports history. Number 24 was simply unstoppable, converting contested shots at will and bullying his way to the rim. He finished with a magical 60 points to end his decorative, 20 year old NBA career.

There truly will never be another Kobe Bryant. To the fadeaway perfectionist, the stone-cold killer, the mightiest gladiator, I thank you. Walking off your achilles injury to shoot crucial free throws, your unforgettable 81 point performance (especially for Raptors’ fans), your game-winning shot against Phoenix in 2004, and more nostalgic moments have cemented your status among the all time NBA greats. Outside of basketball, you were a loving father of four, bright daughters and a supportive husband to your wife, Vanessa. I will always remember you, Kobe Bryant. However, we should also take time to recognize the other eight lives that were reportedly lost in the accident. One of the lives lost included one of Kobe’s daughters, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant. May her and the other eight, innocent souls rest in paradise. Thank you all for your contributions to the world, and I pray for all your families’ well-being. I used to shout “KOBE!” when I shot my rolled-up balls into trash cans. Now, it’ll be “FOR KOBE!”, and I’ll make sure I don’t miss. Thank you, Kobe Bryant. Mamba forever.

John Gallardo

Kobe Bean Bryant is unquestionably one of the best basketball players of his time. Beyond basketball, Bryant was a father to four daughters, a husband to his wife Vanessa, and a son to Joe and Pam.

Kobe accomplished anything he put his mind to. The “mamba mentality” was Kobe’s m/o as a basketball player. An absolute scoring machine. The hardest worker in the gym. Always the first one in and the last one to leave. He left an impact on the game that will be felt forever. He inspired a new generation of kids around the world to play the game of basketball. When kids in classrooms toss out a piece of trash, they would always yell: “KOBE!”

The new generation of NBA stars take to the court, attempting to emulate his game. Kobe would take to mentoring many of the young stars coming up. Kobe would train with the likes of Giannis Antentokoumpo and Luka Doncic.

81 points in a game. 5 NBA Championships. 2 Finals MVP’s. 1 regular season MVP. Fourth all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020. There have been many players throughout history with plenty of talent, but no one worked harder than Kobe. Memories of game-winners, highlight dunks, and mid-range fadeaways will forever live on in our minds.

Admittedly, I was never the biggest fan of Kobe as a basketball player. Just as I was beginning to follow the NBA, Kobe was often on the other side of many teams I supported. Dropping 81 on the Raptors. Getting revenge on the Celtics in the NBA Finals. As Kobe’s career was coming to a close, I began to realize just how special he was, and how privileged I was to see him play. Kobe is one of the fiercest competitors in sports. Kobe inspires me everyday to get up and grind. You can’t reach Kobe-level excellence without a mamba mentality work ethic to match. What Kobe accomplished on the court will always be remembered. I’ll remember him as a man that tackled every challenge in life with the same mentality. The mamba mentality. Rest easy legend.

Neeraj Varma

The terms “work ethic” and “Kobe Bryant” aren’t said in separate breaths by many basketball fans anywhere. Every child of my generation, the past generation, and the present’s knew who Kobe was. It didn’t matter if you watched 82 games a year, 1 game a year, or had never even seen the Mamba play. He was special. He was transcendent. He was the type of icon that your grandmother had heard of. He was more than a basketball player in 82 games. He was a role model for 365 days every year.

Kobe Bryant was far from one of my favourite players growing up – in fact as a basketball player, I hated him. Raptors fans know well enough how he embarrassed us time and time again. As I grew older and came to understand who the man underneath the purple and gold jersey was, I came to respect him as much as anybody. Who in God’s name has the strength and the determination to bang a couple free throws and then walk your own ass off the court after rupturing your achilles? Kobe Bean Bryant does. That’s the level of determination I’ve strived to achieve in my own life.

Growing up, my dream was to play in the NBA – to put on a jersey, step on the court in front of thousands, and match up with a guy like Kobe Bryant. Maybe even get the chance to say something like, “You’re the reason I’m here today, thank you”, as he probably trash talked me in Hindi.

I remember as a kid, my dad would let me pick a couple of Raptors games off the schedule that I wanted to go see, and he would try to get tickets to at least one of them. Each year the schedule came out, the first thing I looked for was LAL – that was the one game I wanted to watch, Kobe was the one guy I wanted to witness. I’d love to believe that his stories of sadistic efforts to make himself better in every facet of life have rubbed off on me, but on a day like today, it’s impossible to think that anyone could emulate any of Kobe’s greatness – on, or off the court.

It doesn’t matter what you thought of Kobe as a basketball player. It doesn’t matter if you thought he was a ball hog, or inefficient, or where you ranked him on the list of all-time greats. Understand this: Kobe Bryant is one of the most inspirational humans for many, and I urge everyone to learn something from the life that he led. It feels like no matter what I say here, I can’t do justice to Kobe’s constant desire for perfection. All that’s really left is this:

Dear Mr. Bryant,

Thank you for spending countless hours in the gym, for grinding out those 3:00 A.M. mornings, for working harder than others believed necessary.

You’re a living example of the ideology that hard work pays off.

Thank you for being such a mesmerizing and electrifying basketball player who was able to spark my interest in the game that I love today.

You’re the reason I was able to learn all of the values I did within those 94-feet of hardwood.

Thank you, Mamba.

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