On January 26, 2020, the New York Knicks and the world stood still and shocked when finding out that Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players to lace them up in the NBA, died in a helicopter crash.
As a New York Knicks writer, this is the most challenging piece for me to write. Kobe “Bean” Bryant is the first celebrity that I cried over because he represented so much more than being a professional basketball player.
The 18-time NBA All-Star, 5-time NBA champion, and 2-time NBA Finals MVP’s was, and still is, considered a global icon. He was a role model for so many people (including myself) on and off the court because he demonstrated and demanded excellence at the highest level. You could feel his passion permeating from his body, whether you were in the arena or watching him on TV.
Anyone who watched Kobe knew that he made the game look so easy, because of his grueling work ethic and constant desire to be number one (aka the “Mamba Mentality”).
Steve Gardner had the perfect quote which summed up Kobe’s Mamba Mentality:
"“There’s a choice that we have to make as people, as individuals. If you want to be great at something, there’s a choice you have to make. We all can be masters at our craft, but you have to make a choice. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, hanging out with friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be. There are sacrifices that come along with making that decision.”"
It was because of that Mamba Mentality that the Los Angeles Lakers and other fanbases admired him. As much as New York Knicks fans loathed when Kobe played our beloved team, there was still a sense of respect for how he approached the game.
I believe Taj Gibson said it best when he described Kobe as a “superhero” and a “true definition of a superstar.” Just take a listen.
Kobe indeed did illustrate the gold standard of excellence, which is what you want out of athletes who play for your team. He had a deep understanding of what it meant and took to be great, and spared no team (especially the Knicks) that expense of demonstrating it.
With all that I just said, I figured it would be nice to go down memory lane about Kobe’s most significant matchups against the Knickerbockers and in MSG.