How I knew Kobe Bryant

Words by Tristan Tamayo

Death means the end of life, the end of a journey. It’s unexpected, oftentimes it will leave you dumbfounded. I always pictured death to be like walking towards the end of a tunnel, a light so bright you really can’t know what’s after. 

Kobe Bryant is just a human being, but for me and most of the kids from my generation, he was our superhero. A hero who was able to overcome anything as long as he had a ball in his hands. He was invincible. We were convinced of it.

But at 3 AM on that Monday morning as I was about to sleep, my phone started beeping. I wondered what it could have been. Did I forget something with work? Looking back at that moment, it was pretty ironic because I just made a graphic congratulating LeBron on passing Kobe in the NBA scoring list. My curiosity kicked in so I checked. At that point, I didn’t know that it would be one of the longest days of my life.

Browsing through my feed I felt like the world was playing with me. How can Kobe die? He can’t die. He’s invincible

Photo from Tristan Tamayo

As the posts and news started to pile up, the dark reality began to set in. Kobe was gone. Gigi being part of that tragic accident was another gut punch. As I sat at the side of my bed, I was hoping to wake up from a bad dream that I wasn’t really in.

I didn’t know Kobe. I only had the opportunity to see him once. When I took his photos during his visit to Manila in 2016. But that moment was enough for me to understand why I admired him so much. You didn’t need to meet someone for them to make a profound impact in your life. Kobe made a big impact on mine and I’ll always be grateful for that.

It wasn’t the flashy dunks, the impossible fadeaways nor the countless buzzer-beaters that stood out the most for me. What I remember most from Kobe was how he picked himself up every time he fell. I’ll never forget the way he overcame adversities with the desire to be better. 

Can’t win without Shaq? Win back to back rings. 

Broken finger? Win a ring.

Ruptured achilles? Come back swinging.

Torn rotator cuff? Drop 60.

The cliche goes, “When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade.” Kobe didn’t just make lemonade, he made Martinis. That’s what Mamba Mentality is about. It’s about life.

It’s for anyone who has a dream and needs the inspiration to reach that dream. It’s a reminder to push harder, dig deeper. Its the belief that you can achieve greatness and live up to your full potential.  

Photo from Tristan Tamayo

Most of us look up to Kobe is because we can relate to his journey. He wasn’t flawless, he made mistakes like the rest of us. But he showed that whoever you are, whatever mistakes you made, as long as you own up to those mistakes, pick yourself up and continue to try and be better, you can still inspire other people. Just like what the late Nipsey Hussle said, “The highest human act is to inspire.”

Kobe wasn’t known as a pass-first guy on court, but he was able to pass on his burning passion and relentless mindset to the next generation. The world mourns because we didn’t just lose a great basketball player, we lost a great father, teacher, and a hero.  

Kobe has now walked past that tunnel, only he and Gigi knows what’s beyond.

Photo from Tristan Tamayo

From someone you saved countless times, I just want to say thank you. I wouldn’t be able to have the courage to write this piece without you.

Legends live forever. Rest easy, Champ.

Mamba out.

Forever.