COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 28 January) — Being a kid in the early 90s for me meant that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Any other name that would surface in discussions became a threat and of course, an enemy.
You were just a high school kid who decided to take his talent to the NBA. You weren’t in the discussions yet, but people already saw something special in you. You won the 1997 Slam Dunk contest where you showed your creativity and athleticism. But more than that, what we really saw was a kid who was ready and not afraid of competition. Heart.
What you initially lacked in skills and talent was overcompensated by your heart. Your work ethics became legendary. During interviews, players and coaching staff would talk about how hard you practiced. From a hater, you later made me into a very big and genuine fan. When others saw ball hogging in your play, I saw sheer determination to win. You pushed your teammates to the edge for them to better because you believed that if you could do it then so could they. No excuses. What’s the point of playing if it weren’t for winning, right?
Mamba mentality. For an average guy who has an 8-5 job, you became a source of inspiration. To us, you were way bigger than just a basketball figure. You loved the grind and outworked others and this resulted to NBA championships. Five to be exact.
After several years of being on top, it was hard seeing your career slow down due to age and injuries but that was just reality kicking in. When you finally decided to hang your jersey, all I could say was thank you for all the hustle and sweat that you left on the court. It was difficult to accept that you wouldn’t be playing anymore but that only meant that you could then start doing new things in life that fans could look forward to and you did. After playing basketball, you immediately won an Oscar for your short animation film. Another testament to the mamba mentality. Your fans began to recover and started to move on from the Kobe-less NBA and little by little, we became excited to see you succeed in your new ventures.
However, on the morning of January 27, 2020, I woke up to missed calls and messages from friends. They knew how big of a fan I was. What made it more difficult was that the accident also involved your daughter and while I was reading the news, I couldn’t help but stare at my daughter who was sleeping soundly beside her mother, my Queen Mamba. I couldn’t believe it.
There are many tragic things happening around the world and most of the time, we can’t make sense of them no matter how hard we try. For now, just like when you retired, although a thousand times more heart-breaking, thank you Kobe. #MambaForever (Andrew Alonto is happily married with one child. He is a peace advocate and co-founder of ‘We Are Marawi’. He posted this piece on the day he learned about Kobe’s death).