Reporters recount growing up watching retiring basketball legend

January 21, 2016 — by Andrew Jiang and Allison Lin

Reporters look back on Kobe Bryant's career as the 17-time all-star, best known for his tremendous impact as a star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

As the shot clock winded down to zero seconds on the court at Oracle Arena on Jan. 14, fans rose from their seats to salute NBA star Kobe Bryant, who was playing his final game in the arena. The same farewell ritual is taking place in NBA stadiums across the country as basketball fans pay tribute to one of the fiercest competitors and basketball legends to play in our generation.

Bryant announced his decision to retire at age 37 on Nov. 28 after suffering several significant injuries and a drop-off in performance in recent seasons. He made the announcement in the form of a poem on the web site of the Players’ Tribune.

The 17-time all-star is best known for his tremendous impact as a star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant began his career as the 13th pick in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in July of the same year and has been with them ever since.

Bryant was more than just a basketball player — he was a role model to us. He taught us loyalty by committing himself to one team for his entire 20-year career, drive through his unrelenting desire to win and diligence through his continual improvement, championship after championship.

For our generation, Bryant was our Michael Jordan. Yes, we admit that Jordan was a better player than Bryant, but we weren’t alive when Jordan dominated the 1990s and won six championships. To us, Jordan was merely a collection of passed-down stories. Hearing of Jordan’s legendary games just wasn’t the same as actually watching Bryant dominate.   

We were firsthand witnesses to Bryant’s rise from second-fiddle to former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal to the unquestioned leader of back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. We were awestruck by Bryant’s countless game-winning shots, fancy footwork and posterizing dunks. Bryant made a lasting impression on our 8-year-old selves when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 6, 2006, scoring the second most points in NBA history.

In fact, Bryant may even be underappreciated because he is overshadowed by Jordan. Critics accuse Bryant of “stealing” Jordan’s signature moves, but we prefer the term “emulate.” Not many can copy Jordan even if they try. It is also unfortunate that Bryant was recognized as the best player in the league only one time in his amazing career, winning one MVP award, and was stuck on a mediocre Lakers team for most of his prime.

Some avid basketball fans may say Bryant is arrogant on and off the court. They may also cite his 2003 sexual assault case and infidelity scandal as reasons to knock him. However, when it comes to his basketball skills and athletic ability, he has few peers.

Bryant may not go down as the greatest basketball player of all time, but he was the king of the hardwood when we were growing up. It’s rare to watch a legend, and we are lucky to have witnessed the “Black Mamba.”