Beyond the Scoreboard: A Letter to the Black Mamba


A cultural icon, father and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant’s legacy will be remembered forever. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Dear Kobe,

You didn’t know me. But I knew you. Last year, I created Beyond the Scoreboard to talk about stories in sports that go outside the limits of box scores, beyond who won or lost. However, this one is different. It is the first time I have typed an article or column while simultaneously sobbing uncontrollably.

What makes writing this even more difficult is knowing when I finish this letter, I will officially be saying goodbye to you. Now, while my mind can rationally comprehend this inevitability, my heart will never truly fathom the horrifying reality that you are no longer with us.

How do I begin to explain the impact that you, one of the greatest athletes we have ever seen, has had on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the game of basketball? Or on the millions of fans, diehard and casual alike? Or on me personally? For a majority of my life, you were always there. Even though I am a San Antonio Spurs fan and you gutted them several times in your career, much to my dismay, you were still my favorite player to watch.

From those who played against you throughout your career, like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, to the next generation of emerging stars such as Luka Doncic and Trae Young, who your daughter Gianna loved to watch, your loss resonates deeply within the NBA community. Hundreds of players, former and present, who credit you with founding their love for the game. You left a lasting impression on them, and most of all, you never passed up an opportunity to teach and provide knowledge on a game you mastered mentally.

You should see the millions of people who have taken the time to mourn you around the world and celebrate your legacy these last few days. On Sunday evening, there were thousands of people surrounding the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but they weren’t there to attend the red carpet festivities of the Grammys being held later that night. They were there for you, man. That is how much your death put the rest of the world on hold: nobody cared about the biggest night in the music industry.

In the sports world, even the biggest week in the National Football League (NFL) doesn’t feel the same anymore. All the hype and appeal for Super Bowl LIV has lost its luster. Players from both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers find themselves wanting to talk more about your memory than about the biggest game in their careers.

From China to Europe, your unexpected departure from this world has devastated everyone. You always emphasized growing the game of basketball, bringing your love and wisdom around the globe for all to see. In a world where communication gets lost in translation, your name never needed translation. The name “Kobe” became universal to those who admired you on and off the basketball court.

I think about your biggest fans, some of them who are close friends of mine. Like my friend Darnell, even in those final years when you battled injuries and the team wasn’t contending, who never wavered on his loyalty to you. Or my friend Shane, who idolized you from the moment I first met him in high school. I swear when he and I initially met, his first words to me weren’t an introduction. All I can remember him saying is, “Kobe is the GOAT!” and then punctuating his proclamation by making the sound of a goat.

For me, there are so many memories that I will always cherish. The game-winning midrange jumper you hit against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 playoffs. When you didn’t flinch in 2010 after Matt Barnes tried you off a baseline inbounds pass. Making two free throws just moments after rupturing your achilles.

Your desire and fearlessness was never questioned or criticized. You even decided to share your philosophy with us, eventually giving it the title “Mamba Mentality.” When implementing this mindset, you made it a point of emphasis that we should love whatever it is that we do. You would go on to say, “If you love what you do, and it’s making you happy, all the hard work and perseverance will pay off.”

Ever since I began pursuing a career in sports media, I have adopted your mentality as my own. Never taking no for an answer. Never passing up on an opportunity to show those around me how great I can be. Putting the extra time and effort because somewhere, I know there are others out there trying to outwork me. One thing I can promise you is that nobody will ever want this more than I do.

What kills me the most is that there were eight other victims in this tragedy, including your daughter Gianna. In between the tears, I think about her final moments in that helicopter. The fear she must have felt. And you, holding her in your arms, reassuring her that everything would be alright. The tears start cascading down my face even harder than before knowing her life will forever be unfulfilled.

Were you a perfect person? No. But you point me in the direction of a perfect person, and if we were to put any of us under a microscope, we would find flaws and imperfections in all of us. What truly matters is what we do after making those mistakes, and you showed us you were more than just a basketball player. You were a wonderful husband to your wife, Vanessa. A loving father to your daughters, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and of course, “Mambacita” herself, Gigi.

There was so much more left for you to accomplish. Now it is up to those of us who believed in what you stood for to continue celebrating your memory and attacking life as relentlessly as you did since you first picked up a basketball at the age of two.

I would hope you didn’t mind if I take one of your famous quotes from your final NBA game against the Utah Jazz to conclude this letter to you. Considering you stole a bunch of MJ’s moves on your way to a Hall of Fame career, something tells me you wouldn’t. So, Kobe, what more can I say? Andrew out.