Here’s an open letter to Kobe Bryant from my best friend, Cameron Bolton.
This is for the greatest competitor of all time, the Black Mamba, the cold-blooded killer, the 5 time NBA champion, the league MVP, the finals MVP, and the third leading scorer in NBA history. This is for the 81 points, and for driving your body into the ground night after night trying to give your fans what you believed they deserved, for this I want to say “Thank You!” Thank you for converting one of your biggest haters into one of your biggest fans (although TJ Pittinger would probably try to take some credit). Thank you for turning me back on to basketball, and for being the shining example of what it takes to be the greatest. You, Kobe Bryant, are the G.O.A.T.!
For years I watched you, hated you, claimed that you would never be the one who took basketball into the post Jordan years. You were the one we were supposed to hate, not because of your fierce competitive nature, or your abilities, but because you were brought into the league being compared to the man everyone idolized.
After Jordan retired, professional basketball was almost dead to me. From the last Bulls-Jazz game, I didn’t watch another game until LA’s Finals against the 76ers, In that series my allegiances fell with Iverson and his overmatched group. The next time I watched the NBA, it was the newly formed big three of the Celtics who stood in your way. That hard-fought series is where you began to win me over. I watched you play with the effort and intensity that many of us dream we could conjure up. You took that defeat to heart, and for the next four years turned into the player that so many of us thought would only exist once. The difference, you took it one step further. Your legend was born and continues to live on in your work ethic.
As fans, we saw the fruits, not the labor. These legends were hearsay. We saw the wins, the championships, and the run that took your body to the brink of failure. For years you have been greatness incarnate. Never accepting defeat, only allowing it to fuel your fire, and be the venom in your strike. Night after night you gave us things to cheer for, reasons to scream M-V-P, M-V-P! When tragedy struck, in Kobe fashion, you showed the world what it meant to be the greatest competitor to ever live. Two free throws on a torn Achilles just proved that physically you could be injured, but mentally you could never be defeated. Your resiliency has shown us that whatever life throws at us; it can never defeat our will.
There is no other player to compare you to, because you have out worked and out willed them all. Few can say they were more naturally talented basketball players, but none can say they worked harder. For Kobe Bean Bryant, your will to be the greatest is what makes you just that. For the game of basketball, you are THE ONE! I believe I can speak on behalf of all of us who know on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, the greatest basketball player to ever live is hanging it up, and we want to say THANK YOU! Kobe Bryant, YOU WILL BE MISSED!
Follow Cameron on Twitter – @TheCoachCam