MANILA, Philippines – Twenty years ago, Kobe Bryant went straight from high school in Philadelphia to playing professional basketball as a teenager against grown men in Los Angeles.
Always an obsessed student of the game, Bryant then made a Hall of Fame career the next two decades with a relentless pursuit of getting better, a fixation with proving critics (specifically, Shaquille O’Neal) wrong, and taking pleasure in playing the role of the villain – even if he was always more of a hero.
In 2016, Bryant – who announced his retirement by penning a letter to the game of basketball – is ready to let it go.
“I don’t. I really have no inclination to play the game anymore,” he told the media on Saturday, June 26, when asked if watching the latest 7-game NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland left him with a desire for a comeback.
“If you would have said that to me 7 years ago, that’s impossible, but I’m really, really fortunate, because it’s really hard for players at this stage to leave the game and feel completely at peace with it.”
Bryant’s dedication to training is nearly as well-known as his trademark fadeaway jumper. The stories of him waking up at 4 in the morning on a daily basis to get shots up or hit the weight room are legendary in their own right, and even inspired the title for his latest event in Manila: The Mamba Mentality Tour.
During this recent tour, Bryant’s main event was visiting the Smart Araneta Coliseum again to coach UAAP players against PBA players in a 12-minute scrimmage. While he walked the hardfloor of The Big Dome, making the collegiate players run for losing a shooting drill, he shared the story of how he once did 50 suicides in 2003 to test himself.
Some may consider it too tiresome of a task, but not Bryant. Basketball was his profession – an avenue that helped put him in Forbes’ richest athletes list a handful of times and pave the way for his current multi-level business, Kobe Inc., but it did not feel like a job for him.
“The magic in life is finding what it is that you love. That’s the key,” said the third-highest scoring player in NBA history. “When you find that thing that you love, your life makes sense. You wake up in the morning, and life makes sense. And for me, it was basketball.
“So whenever I went through a hard time – good times, bad times – I always went to the game. That was always my escape, that was always my form of self-expression, communication, how to deal with frustration. It’s always through the game.”
Bryant now leaves the game after, in his words, giving his mind, body, spirit, and soul; after scoring 60 points in his finale and 81 in his prime; after winning 5 championships and setting a lot of other records; after cementing his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history.
And he’s comfortable with that.
Actually: “very” comfortable.
“The game for me has always been a vehicle for which I express myself. I find out more about myself through various challenges and obstacles. So I’m very comfortable with letting the game go and continuing to grow through other things.” – Rappler.com
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