by Elvis Lau
He looks up: 3.2 seconds left on the clock. The Lakers are down 107 to 105 at the Staples Center. The ball is thrown in from the sidelines, and he runs out from the free throw line to catch it. Dwyane Wade trails him, running right behind. Outside the perimeter, he sprints across the court. 2. 1. He jumps; Wade leaps after him—too late. The flick of the wrist, the release. Silence takes over as all eyes are on the basketball, soaring across the arena. 0.3, 0.2, 0.1. BUZZ! The ball hits the backboard, bounces back, and falls right into the net. The stadium erupts, and fans cheer on as Kobe Bryant banks the 3-pointer to close out the game, leading the Los Angeles Lakers past the Miami Heat 108 to 107.
This unbelievable game-winner is one of many that I will remember of Kobe Bryant when he retires at the end of his 20th season. Growing up, I was an avid basketball fan. Every day during lunch at school, my friends and I played HORSE or half-court games. When we dribbled, we channeled Allen Iverson; when we passed, we imitated Steve Nash; when we shot, we all mimicked Kobe Bryant. Kobe was the greatest influence for me because of his ferocity. He took the toughest shots—off-balance jumpers, contested fadeaways—he made them all. Double-team, triple-team, nothing fazed him. His lethal persona was unrivalled, and he was the most exciting basketball player to watch. Even during class and at home, he was present. Whenever I threw trash away, I crumpled it up into a ball, and yelled “Kobe!” as I threw it into the recycling bin as if to emulate his craft. Kobe Bryant was truly a gift to the game of basketball.
Throughout his career, Kobe Bryant has developed into one of the greatest basketball players ever. He has garnered a nickname, the Black Mamba, to parallel one of the deadliest snakes in the world. In addition, he has amassed tremendous career achievements. A 5-time NBA champion, 2-time NBA Finals MVP, 2-time scoring champion, 17-time NBA All-Star, and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, Kobe Bryant has done it all. He has played with legends of the past like Michael Jordan and current superstars like Lebron James and Stephen Curry. He has helped to establish one of the most valuable franchises in the NBA. He has even become a global sensation, one of the most popular athletes in China.
With the last chapter of such a phenomenon coming to a close, the NBA may never again witness such an icon. Kobe’s focus, intensity, deadliness—these will never be replaced. With the conclusion of my lifelong ‘s hero journey, a part of my childhood will also be put away. It will be a strange day when I will have to watch the Lakers play without No. 24 on the court. May the spirit of the Black Mamba be with basketball forever.