Kobe Bryant: The 'Black Mamba' who made NBA his own

Kobe Bryant: The 'Black Mamba' who made NBA his own

Bryant, a name that will be discussed, his games will be dissected and the persona's activities will be analysed in years to come

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against the Memphis Grizzlies during their NBA game 33 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California

"For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever."

- The Brook, Lord Alfred Tennyson

Death, the inevitable consequence that determines the life of a living creature. Death, the profound mystery shrouded by darkness, a wall of unknowingness that philosophers and mystics have tried to breach since time immemorial. Death, the final swansong, and curtains drop heralding the end of a play. The audiences look back, with fond nostalgia and tears streaming down their cheeks as they mourn the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who along with his daughter, died in a plane crash on January 27.  

"I always aimed to kill the opposition"

- From Mamba Mentality, a book by Kobe Bryant and legendary NBA photographer Andrew D Bernstein

The black mamba is a species of an extremely venomous snake. The second-longest venomous snake after King Cobra, the formidable and highly aggressive species attacks humans only if it is threatened or cornered. It was in 2014 when he revealed that the nickname came from Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill and later when he read about the animal, he decided to adopt a nickname. 

Kobe was certainly not venomous. But he was aggressive, he was formidable. A career based on constant introspection and analysis about his game, Kobe struck terror in the heart of the opposition, mingled with a deep sense of respect. In his own words, "I liked challenging people and making them uncomfortable. That’s what leads to introspection and that’s what leads to improvement. You could say I dared people to be their best selves." That he called himself 'The Black Mamba' is a testament to his tenacity and evolution to a marauding 'shooting guard', a traditional position in basketball whose main objective is to score points for their team and steal the ball on defense. It was the constant strive for improvement, the ability to attack at a breathtaking speed that helped him to propel Los Angeles Lakers to new heights in NBA. As the team touched new heights of glories, Kobe etched his name in the pantheon of greats.

A look at some of his scintillating records, and one can fathom his prowess in the court: An 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive team, and the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP). Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he led the NBA in scoring during two seasons, ranks fourth on the league's all-time regular-season scoring. Even in his last match against Utah Jazz back in 2016, he dragged a struggling Lakers to a 101-96 win, with himself scoring 22 of 50 shots. Mind boggling, isn't it? 

Keeping aside the mumbo jumbo of statistics, Kobe Bryant had another battle to fight off the court, without the ball and the cheering of the audience: His war against racism. For someone who faced the deep-rooted stigma of racism while growing up in Italy between the age of six and thirteen, basketball provided an opportunity to rise above the discrimination, to drown the abuses with a sea of applause.

"It's always education and understanding that racism is a thing that's been a part of our culture for a while. Even though now we've come such a long way but there's still so much to be done and I think education is always the most important thing," he told in an interview to CNN's Andy Scholes at a Major League Soccer event in California. 

And of course, his support for women to play in NBA. He was an avid supporter of women's participation in NBA and pointed out Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Elena Della Donne who could compete in NBA, shoulder-to-shoulder with the men.  

"And that's OK. I'm ready to let you go."

-Kobe Bryant in 'Dear Basketball'

Kobe Bryant, a name that will be discussed, his games will be dissected and the persona's activities will be analysed in years to come. Like 'Sheshnag' of Hindu mythology who embraced the earth to lend it stability, 'The Black Mamba' wrapped itself around the NBA, acting as its torchbearer, the guiding figure. 

Kobe Bryant will be remembered, every time the ball embraces the basket. 

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