OPEN LETTER TO KOBE BEAN BRYANT
Wednesday April 13, 2016
My 20 year relationship with you the basketball player is ending. You don’t know it, but we have been tight and linked together for quite some time now. We are like family. We have been through so many ups, downs, triumphs, and failures together. We have won a lot of games, made and missed shots together, and I have been loyal and committed to our bond even when we disagreed, or you did things I didn’t like. When naysayers and detractors come around, I give them the gospel. But, when you were wrong and should have done better I spoke about that too.
Our relationship didn’t really start out on the best note. We were not cool because you were the anti-MJ and a threat to his greatness and Michael Jordan was my hero. In my book, Jordan inspired me and could walk on water so there was no room for anyone else. Plus, you were just an unoriginal Jordan imitation who happened to play for the Lakers. Kind of like a cover band who couldn’t make their own hits. When the Bulls broke up after a 6th championship, it broke my 16 year old heart. The Bulls lost me forever. I needed a new favorite player and team. I searched for years. I tried Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill but the injury bug snuffed them out. I was searching for a player that inspired me and embodied all the things I want to be in life.
April 28, 2002, the day that changed my sports life forever. I was watching TV in my apartment at the University of Oregon, and stumbled upon Beyond The Glory: Kobe Bryant.It gave a three-dimensional view of you – one I had never seen before. I learned who you were and why you were that way. You were a kid who didn’t fit in with all the cool kids socially because you came from a different place. I could relate to that. That was my story. Your fire and desire to compete resonated in my soul. I too hate to lose much more than I like to win. Ever since that day I was all in with you. Over the next 16 years, you would inspire me in ways even Michael Jordan never did.
When I was playing in college or in the league, playing was my safe haven. No matter what was going on personally I could focus for those few hours on the field. I emulated you. Whether you got a high five or flipped off, it never changed you. You worked hard and were willing to sacrifice everything to be the best. Sometimes I have that, sometimes I don’t. But I want it all the time.
I have seen and read about you seeking knowledge from other highly successful people. Unbeknownst to you, you taught me how the principles of highly successful people translate to the field. The one thing I wish I had learned when I was still playing was how important the “process” is. You taught me that. Results are a byproduct of the process.
Today is a sad day, but I am happy for you. I’m proud of you and appreciative for all the greatness you have given me. I am sad because it’s over for us on the court. I’m happy for you because you are being recognized as the hero in this last year that all of us really want to be. I’m proud of you for falling from grace and picking up the pieces to inspire others. I’m appreciative for all the greatness you have given me on the court. Most of all, I thank you for everything that goes unnoticed. You gave ALL OF US more greatness off the court than on. I have had so many great debates and conversations with friends, at the barbershop, on inspired by you. Whether people like you or not, it was greatness. I can’t count the radio and TV shows that I have either watched or been a part of talking about Kobe. You may not realize it but friendships have been forged and people have gotten through tough times because of you. I can’t tell you how many times I have had people at the house and the time is so much more festive because we were watching you play. To some people you are the villain, some the hero. Either way, we bonded because of you. Who is better, Kobe or LeBron? Is he better than Jordan? Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better. No one wants to play with Kobe. Or does everybody? Is he top 5 all- time? Kobe is the hardest working basketball player ever. He’s such a great player, but he’s a jerk. The list goes on…
Honestly, this season has been rough for me. I’d imagine it’s been pretty humbling and tenuous for you as well. It has been painful to watch. I feel bad for you. Your mind wants to do things your body will no longer allow. I have been through the feeling of your body betraying you as an athlete (mental frustrating). The season hasn’t been rough because my team sucks, but because I still had hope. I still hoped you had a couple more Tim Duncan type seasons left to compete for a championship. I wasn’t ready to let US go. It was so bad that I almost wanted you to leave the Lakers so you could get #6. The fact that your last year is going to end with 65 losses initially seemed criminal. Then I remembered all the praise, love, and appreciation the great fans of other teams have shown you. If you were on a title contending team you would not get the cheers and presents at road games would be nonexistent. All this is a fitting end for you. The ultimate HERO VILLAIN.
Ever since you announced you were retiring, I have been preparing for TODAY. I don’t know what you will do in your final game today, but I know like everything else it will be with all your might.
Thanks for the memories. Thanks for all giving me far more than basketball.
You are welcome,
George Fredrick Wrighster, III