Dear Kobe Bryant: A Letter From A ’90s Kid

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (C) drives to the basket past Rasheed Wallace (R) of the Portland Trailblazers during their 24 April playoff game in Los Angeles. Bryant scored 15 points as the Lakers went on to win the game, 104-102 to lead the best of five series, 1-0. AFP PHOTO Vince BUCCI (Photo by VINCE BUCCI / AFP) (Photo by VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (C) drives to the basket past Rasheed Wallace (R) of the Portland Trailblazers during their 24 April playoff game in Los Angeles. Bryant scored 15 points as the Lakers went on to win the game, 104-102 to lead the best of five series, 1-0. AFP PHOTO Vince BUCCI (Photo by VINCE BUCCI / AFP) (Photo by VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

As the sports world mourns the heartbreaking loss of Kobe Bryant, the news hits hard for those of us that grew up in the 1990s.

Dear Kobe Bryant,

As we sift through the information and intense emotions that have been brought on by your sudden and tragic passing, the sports world remains in shock; a generational icon and his beautiful daughter, killed in a sudden helicopter crash.

Grief from your passing was felt by even the most casual of sports fans. Your face graced every TV in every sports bar across the country, the story leading every telecast in the world. There has been an outpouring of love for you and your family from NBA players, NBA fans, Los Angelinos, and the entire sports community.

But for those of us who spent the 1990s in our childhood or adolescence, your passing carries an even heavier weight on our hearts.

We grew up with you. We watched your arrival: a young, bald-headed rookie who did a between-the-legs slam to win the 1997 Dunk Contest.

We watched your first transformation: ‘FroBe. The hair grew and so did the accolades. You became a champion, You were the face of the franchise that dominated the league while most of us were beginning our love for the game.

We watched you at your lowest points, through off-court issues that most of us never saw coming. People turned on you. You became a villain. We watched your fall from grace, from loveable NBA superstar to public antihero.

But we also watched you pick yourself up as you had so many times before. We watched you apologize to your wife. We watched you start a beautiful family, and become a well-respected husband and father.

We watched your second on-court resurgence, this time with a new uniform number and a new haircut. You dominated. You set scoring records. You won multiple championships nearly a decade after you won your first.

Then we watched you tear your Achilles. We watched you pick yourself up and limp to the free-throw line and knock down your shots. We watched your rehab. We watched you score 60 points in your final game, the perfect curtain call and final touch on a remarkable painting that was your basketball career.

And we all watched on Sunday afternoon as the news poured in. We saw the footage of the burning wreckage, our timelines and text messages flowing with information and disbelief. We grieved, as an icon and childhood hero to so many, was reported dead along with his teenage daughter and 7 others.

For many of us, your retirement from basketball was symbolic; we had never known the NBA without Kobe Bryant. You spent the majority of our childhoods as the face of the league, your jersey a top seller for essentially the entirety of your career. Guys like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett retired around the same time you did, but your departure from the game is the one that resonated with us the most.

Both your athletic accomplishments as well as your many transformations will always be an inspiration to our generation. Your drive, passion, and love for the game of basketball helped thousands, if not millions, of children around the world, find their love for it. Myself included. Show me a basketball-playing 90s kid that didn’t go down to the park and practice the patented jab-step, turnaround, fallaway jumper, and I’ll show you a liar.

The number of lives that you either touched, affected, or changed might be higher than for any other athlete of our generation. Tiger Woods. Derek Jeter. Kobe Bryant.

Your legacy will live on through your fans and the entire sports world. After a couple of hours of processing the information, I went into my garage and found the box labeled “old jerseys”. I pulled out the yellow and purple Kobe Bryant #8. Five sizes too small.

It was the first NBA jersey I ever owned.

Kyle Guy's First NBA Points. dark. Next

Kobe Bryant: 8/23/78 – 1/26/20