Thank you for playing basketball. No. Thank you for playing the heck out of basketball. Those two sentences are very different and the difference can only be understood when we fully grasp how much you loved playing basketball. You loved it. We felt it. You understood basketball in a way that allowed us to quickly pin your name to every successful shot we made in the privacy of our homes.
Rolls up paper. Throws paper in basket. KOBE! Finishes water. Grabs empty water bottle with gusto. Steps back. Makes shot. KOBE! Our make-believe fans always went wild. “Kobe” is not only a noun, but a verb.
Many have spoke about you and how you inspired them to be a better father, a better athlete, a better employee, and overall, a better person. Allow us to reflect on Kobe in true KAE fashion. (Quotes below were taken from Kobe's 60 minutes interview in 2001. When Bryant spoke to 60 Minutes, he was just four-and-a-half years into his NBA career.)
1, "It's kind of an escapism."- Kobe stated this when talking about how he would turn to basketball when he felt down and needed an out. We can relate. This assurance that something outside ourselves can change us and our circumstance is what KAE was built on. That assurance is God.
2. "Kids weren't speaking English. Everybody was speaking slang and I didn't understand one word,"- When Bryant was six, his family moved to Italy, where his dad continued to play professional ball. Bryant said the experience helped him mature and bond with his family. But when he returned to the U.S. and moved to Philadelphia at age 14, he had a big adjustment to make. We can relate. KAE's message is one that does not include vulgarity, hatred, jealousy, or anything of the sort. We began with all intentions of being different. As this world continues to thrive off of perception sans reality, it is becoming clearer and clearer how different we are and how different we must be.
3. "The ball when it bounces, the sound that it makes, the smell of the basketball -- not one that's completely brand new or one that's too old. But one that's right in the middle. It's kind of worn down a little bit. It just smells -- it smells like NBA,"- Bryant's passion for the game runs deep. When Rose asked him what he loves about basketball, he sounded rapturous about every aspect of the game - even the smell. We can relate. What do we love about KAE? The people we've met but most importantly, the ability that God has given to us to create something that is an extension of our belief in Him. Everything about who the bible says God is, is exciting. It keeps us going.
4. "That one thing that you can expect from me is to go all out at all times," he told Rose. "Long as I can strap my [own] sneakers up and I can go out there and play, I'm going to give you guys 110 percent always, you know, till the day I retire."- At 34, Kobe would become the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points, and now, retiring at age 37, he's the lead scorer in Lakers franchise history. But at age 22, he was still a rising star with something to prove. We can relate. Although many would probably disagree due to belief, we believe Kobe recognized his gift and worked tirelessly towards the goal of perfecting his craft. Kobe was going to be Kobe because that is who God made Him to be. For KAE, we plan on never getting comfortable. We hope to live a life that is completely directed by God and a brand that transforms mindsets and rewords conversations. For KAE, our promise is Psalm 146:2, "I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." Life will get hard, obstacles will take form, and mistakes will be made however, as long as God continues to breathe life into us, we will do what KAE believes we have been called to do, impact others and change lives.
Kobe, thank you for #24. Not just the number many are proud to rock on their jersey. Thank you for reminding us of the 24 hours in a day that must be committed to a person’s passion, to a person's calling, to developing a person's character, to becoming who they've vowed to become. Thank you for addressing your personal issues with dignity and respect. We don't know the details and we don't care to find out. We see the power of forgiveness. The same forgiveness KAE speaks about when we think about the human construct and the many times God as forgiven and forgot.
KAE is not a sports brand,or anything remotely close, but the message of KAE is one that penetrates each and every circle, if accepted. Kindness. You intimately understand kindness and its impact. Reading a letter from one of your middle school classmates, she tells the story of when she had an asthma attack in her junior year while running around the school for indoor track practice. You piled up as many of your teammates that would fit into your car and drove to the hospital to make sure she was OK. That's the Kobe she said not everyone knew. The person who acted as an ambassador, leader and role model to the school.
As you close one chapter and open the next, we hope you are incessantly proud of the Kobe you graciously shared with the world. Thank you for being far more than just a great basketball player. To an entire generation of NBA fans, you are basketball.
Want more Kobe? Check out the links below!
Click here to read how retired Los Angeles Lakers, Horace Grant, Brian Shaw, Ron Harper and Devean George remember Mr. Kobe Bryant.
Kobe: The Interview
'Dear Kobe'- NBA's thank you letter to Kobe
The Players' Tribune
Full 60 minutes interview