It’s 2:00 in the morning, I finally went to sleep to ease my mind off of the tragedy that occurred today. But as I wake up, it hits me once again that my idol is officially not here with us anymore. No matter how much I wish I would like him back on earth inspiring us to be great like he always did, it was just time to come to reality that Kobe was gone forever.

For those who knew me, I had no male role model growing up. But I loved the game of basketball so much. I told myself the NBA was a requirement even when my family members told me to quit dreaming. Because of Kobe I kept that dream alive and went out to work on my craft everyday to become the best that I could be.

In middle school, the eyes were on LeBron James. He was younger, he was bigger, he was faster, and he would put on a highlight reel each and every night in the NBA. There was no question that he was great. But for me, I saw something different. Kobe was more on the downside of his career, so kids my age weren’t fascinated with the fundamentals of the game that he carried as he got older and wiser.

If you ask me, I loved watching the fadeaways, I loved watching him back down defenders, I loved watching him run the triangle offense with his teammates that would put him in high screen and roll action. It was the simple plays for me that led me to fall in love with his game. He was so smart with the game of basketball and he had that level of intensity that I wanted to show on the court everytime I played the game as well.

When Kobe stepped on the floor, he was mean. It was like someone took something from him and he always wanted to seek revenge from whoever was in front of him. I loved watching him score 62 in 3 quarters and score 81 in a game. It was his goal to show no mercy to his defenders and wanted to rip your heart out everytime he had the chance to. It was only a matter of time before I caught that DNA from him and I wanted to take that mentality whenever I played basketball.

What really took me away with Bean was Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals. With his team down big in that game against Boston, Kobe went on a stretch like none other before. He slowly brought his team back with drilling threes and hitting fallaway jumpers, he gave his blood sweat and tears to that game because he knew an NBA Title was on the line. He literally couldn’t miss a shoe from the field and scored 19 points in about 5 minutes of playing time on the court. After that I instantly knew that it was time for me to worship this guy forever if I wanted to become one of the best to ever do it.

So from then on I lived my life like Kobe. When I played ball, I had the armband on my left arm, I wrapped my finger with tape, and I put a knee sleeve on my right knee to let people know that I was the next Kobe and that no one was stopping me. I know people thought I was weird by doing all of this, but to hell with it I was 12 years old and found someone that I could finally look up to.

I also wanted to marry a woman that looked like Vanessa along with having two daughters the way Kobe did. Do I look back now and find it kind of weird to think like that? Well, yeah but like I said I was 12 years old. This was the guy that seemed to have showed me life. I wanted to find a way to carry his name in honor and somehow be Kobe 2.0 once he was done playing basketball.

After school, my brother and I would be outside just working on our moves offensively. I would act like I’m posting up and then suddenly make a turnaround jumper. I even learned how to make a reverse layup as well after watching Kobe make that shot on several occasions. I needed to make sure that everything that I did on the court that I looked just like Kobe when I did it. There was nothing else that fulfilled me as a kid other than being like the Mamba.

When I played organized basketball, I kept the same mentality that I saw Bean play with throughout the years. I was mean to my opponent and I would never let up. A lot of people blamed my bad temper that I had as a young in, but i always tell them different. Kobe taught me that you had to be mean on the floor in order to be successful. So I followed his footsteps to do what I felt was needed.

And guess what? People feared me on the court. I saw opponents tentative and afraid everytime they went up against me. I loved the way I played and it was all thanks to the Mamba for his impact on me. Did I go overboard sometimes? Well of course! I was young and idolized someone that I looked up to. I saw what I saw on TV and took what I saw onto the basketball court to be the next Kobe.

I remember our class project in 8th grade where we had to write a letter to anybody that inspired us the most. And of course I had to write to my favorite guy in the world. I wrote a letter to Kobe telling him how much he changed me as a player. I also wrote about how I believed you were a better player than Michael Jordan as well. It was probably the best opportunity that I had to finally get to talk to you and let you know how much you really meant to me as a basketball player.

After I wrote my fulfilled letter to Kobe, my teacher sent it out to the Staples Center address in Los Angeles. To this day, I’m not sure if my letter ever reached him due to the fact that at this time the NBA was in the middle of a lockout and no games were played at the time. I’m not sure if the letter has ever made it to Kobe or if it may have been taken by another person. Either way, that piece of paper was filled with love and appreciation for everything the man has done for my life from a far. It was an honor to write to my favorite person in the whole wide world.

Year 17 comes and the man is doubted whether he can still play at a high level. I couldn’t really blame everyone by how they felt just based off of the past couple seasons in the playoffs and in the 2012 Olympics. But Bean came into this season with a chip on his shoulder and I watched him the entire way.

With his team being pretty much pathetic all season, Kobe continued to shine on the court averaging 27 per game that year. My favorite moment of that season was against the Toronto Raptors where the Lakers were getting beat down for most of the game. Then out of nowhere Kobe drills 3 three pointers to bring the team back into the game and force overtime. Then in overtime he brought the Mamba out of him even more and finished that game off securing a win against a trash Raptors team.

Later on that season, I continued to watch Kobe take over games. You couldn’t tell me anything about my favorite player as he took his game to a different level going into crunch time. Then April 12 happened. Two days after he scored 47 points on my birthday, I watched my guy tears his Achilles’ tendon and now I’m siting in my room ticked off because I thought it was over for him. I remember the next time I went to school how people joked to me that Kobe was done and everything. But I told everyone just wait on it because he was gonna come back stronger than ever and nobody would be laughing then.

I must admit though. I don’t think Kobe had ever disappointed me ever in my life. But the summer of 2013 he did. While recovering from his devastating injury, I saw my favorite basketball player get a little heavy during the summer. I get it though. He had no way of keeping himself in shape. But it’s KOBE BRYANT though. I would have never expected for the man to sit around the couch and eat donuts while he’s suppose to come back stronger and better. Eventually he did get himself back in shape as he continued to rehab his injury. And once he was ready to step back on the court he did it soon.

I waited about 8 months to see my guy get back on the NBA hardwoods. And as December 8, 2013 came, my heart was filled. Yeah he played terrible his first game back. But that didn’t matter to me. It was great to see my guy back on the court and playing the game that he loved the most. It sucked that the injuries continue to pile up that season as he only played 6 games, but I made sure to watch every moment of those games to get a glimpse of what Bean had to offer post Achilles injury.

I was hoping Kobe could be the same guy that he always been late in his career. But in reality, Father Time was ahead of him. He came back the 2015 season playing 35 games that year. And in the 2016 season he was a shell of himself as well. Like I said, I just wanted to always watch Kobe on the floor. But the more I saw him struggle on the court the more I came to realization that the end is finally here. But his last game he gave us all he had to give with providing 60 points in his farewell game. I knew that I was going to miss him. But I always knew that I would always have all the memories of watching him dominate forever. I was happy to see Kobe look forward to the next chapter of his life and I would fully support it all the way through.

If you thought retirement was boring for this guy, you had another thing coming. Kobe just about dominated retirement just like he did during his playing career. His show Detail was one of the best shows out as he broke down players games and really showed the game from his perspective. Coaching his daughter was also a huge thing for him as well. Not to mention that he directed a movie as well and won an Oscar from it. He took the mindset from basketball that he always had and he became just as successful with other things if not more.

I also loved the way he embraced the new generation of players as well. Many greats never like to share the knowledge that they had with others. But for Kobe to embrace the likes of Kyrie, Kawhi, PG, etc. and teach them how to win, that speaks volumes. There is a reason why everyone looked up to him the way that they did. He was so generous and didn’t hide who he was as a person. This was a side of Kobe that we loved to see and he evolved so much after his playing days.

The world saw a new Kobe Bryant. A Kobe who loved to write, a Kobe who loved to teach others. The world really looked up to him when it came to success. The Mamba Mentality was rubbing off of everyone. But on January 26, that was when Bean left his mark on the world that would be remembered forever.

When Kobe died I found it very hard to come to terms with it. I broke down at a restaurant in disbelief not wanting to accept the fact that he was gone. And the fact that his daughter was with him as well broke my heart even more. The world just seemed to stop that day instantly. What turned into a good morning turned into a devastating afternoon in a blink of an eye. I’m still not 100% okay after what happened.

I never met Kobe Bryant even though it was always my dream to. But if he were here in front of me today I would thank him for impacting my life even though he knows nothing about me. Just his commitment to his craft was what motivated me to be great in life and without his impact I have no idea where I would be at today.

My heart goes out to the other lives that were lost and their families as well. Life goes by quick and you never know when it’s your time to go. Although Kobe is no longer here today, his impact will last forever. Thank you Kobe for all of the good times that you gave me!