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YOUNG BLOOD

Basketball and beyond

04:03 AM February 04, 2020

Kobe Bryant defined a generation. I was born in 1995, a year before he was drafted into the NBA at the tender age of 17. And people of my age would agree that he was more than just a basketball player: He was an emotional experience, a collective memory, a lofty ideal, and a generational icon.

I grew up with Kobe Bryant posters all over my bedroom. I had an LA Lakers notebook, and the number 8 was my favorite number. I surely wasn’t alone. Watch any pick-up game, and you’d see a number 8 or 24 somehow.

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In school, not a few hours were (happily) wasted trying to watch history unfold. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, for instance, which pitted Bryant’s Lakers and their arch-nemesis the Celtics.

At that time, I was in high school at an all-boys’ school in Quezon City. There was absolutely no way we were missing that game, even if it fell on a school day. Probably half of the student population was late, and everybody understood. The Lakers won, Kobe got his second Finals MVP, and school tardiness was a mere concept.

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Where were you when he had his 81-point (!) game? What about when he dropped 60 points in his last professional game? What about shouting “Kobeeeee” as you shot paper basketballs into garbage bins? If you’re stuck in an elevator with 20- to 30-year-olds, this is your icebreaker.

But for all of his conquests, fadeaways, and rings, Kobe’s impact resonated beyond sports. He had an unmatched work ethic, relentless competitive spirit, and win-at-all-costs mentality that all of us can learn from. He showed that we are neither too young (drafted at 17) nor too old (hence the nickname “Vino” or wine) to be great.

He showed that excellence is not a singular act, but a lifestyle; that mastering your craft — whether it’s basketball, storytelling, or your 8-to-5 job — meant never taking shortcuts. He preached attention to detail and daily sacrifice. And with five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, a regular-season MVP, and an Oscar, we believed him. This was the Mamba Mentality.

He inspired young people to pick up a basketball, as much as he inspired them to study hard for an exam. He was an overachiever who personified the stubborn pursuit of excellence. He was never really the tallest, fastest, strongest, or most athletic player. In fact, 12 people were chosen ahead of him in the 1996 NBA draft. Yet, many will remember him as one of the greatest, if not the Greatest, of All Time (the GOAT).

As our generation mourns the loss of Kobe Bryant, let us all keep him alive in mind and spirit. Let us be stronger than our worst critics, and not let any person define what is possible and what isn’t.

Approach every day like it’s your last, and never leave room for “what-if’s” and “what-could-have-beens.”

Carry on the Mamba Mentality in the basketball court, in the workplace, in school, and wherever the case may be.

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Detest mediocrity and be a better version of yourself every single day.

Let that be his legacy to a generation so privileged to have watched him showcase his talents night in and night out.

What can I say? Mamba out.

* * *

Adrian Glova, 24, is an aspiring economist. He has an economics degree from UP Diliman and is currently taking up a master’s degree in science. Like many others, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant.

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TAGS: Adrian Glova, Kobe Bryant, Young Blood
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