Thank You, Kobe Bryant

Goodbyes are hard. It wasn’t all that long ago that we watched Kobe Bryant bid farewell in an unforgettable 60-point performance.

It was an “I remember where I was when…” moment — just one of many Bryant left us with over the course of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Then, it seemed surreal that it was coming to an end. There were many fans who couldn’t remember a time before Bryant and the idea of seeing the Lakers take the floor without him that next season was a major adjustment.

The goodbye that we say today is infinitely more difficult. The news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven other people lost their lives in a helicopter crash hit the NBA, nation, and world with tragic force. He impacted everyone, everywhere. We all have Kobe stories, moments where he inspired us. Moments where his confidence and work ethic motivated us. Where his brilliance brought us together.

To this day, we all still yell “Kobe!” when shooting a piece of paper into a trash can, a testament to his lasting legacy.

For the massive fanbase that is Lakers Nation, however, Bryant’s impact runs deeper than just what we saw on the court. We grew up with him, alongside him. As we struggled to navigate life’s hurdles, so too did a young Bryant, who was so eager to prove his worth on the game’s highest level.

He matured and so did we, watching as Bryant learned to become a better player and teammate. As we all rode the roller coaster that is life, Bryant was a constant. Through all of the ups and downs, wins and losses, rain or shine, there was Bryant, doing everything he could to win for Los Angeles.

Even after he retired, Bryant would pop up every now and then usually to announce another project that he was conquering. While he wasn’t on the floor four nights a week anymore, it was as if he would appear just to remind everyone to keep grinding. There are always new mountains to climb, new challenges to face.

That endless determination speaks to the larger lesson that we can take from Bryant’s life both on and off the court. He pushed himself to a degree that few have the will to, constantly striving to make the very most of his talents. Perhaps more than any athlete before him, Bryant exhausted every ounce of basketball in his body, culminating in that incredible 60-point finale.

Too often, we stand down from the challenges that lie before us. The work is too hard, the pain too great, the mountain too steep. Bryant made a life out of quieting those nagging inner voices and attacked life head-on, believing that the rock will break long before he does.

He proved what can be accomplished if only we have the courage to embrace the challenge.

In the timeless coming-of-age baseball movie “The Sandlot,” the ghost of Babe Ruth advises that ‘heroes get remembered, but legends never die.’ Bryant, unquestionably a legend, will live on, and what he represented will continue through all of us.

Take on that challenge. Push yourself. Continue to strive to be better at whatever it is that matters most. Bryant, fallible and flawed, spent his life proving that the impossible is possible, failure is temporary, and most of all, the human spirit is strong. We never know when our final buzzer will sound, so make the most of every opportunity.

So yes, this is goodbye to Kobe Bean Bryant, and it’s incredibly hard. Los Angeles, the NBA, and the entire world is a darker place without him in it. Our thoughts and prayers will remain with his family through this tragedy.

But the legend, everything that Bryant stood for, endures.

Thank you, Kobe Bryant.