Kobe Bryant built his identity throughout his career as the Black Mamba, an assassin of a basketball player and a personality further developed by Nike’s marketing tactics.
He closed the book on his NBA career Wednesday with a 60-point performance.
Bryant’s farewell tour heading into his final NBA game included more acceptance of the hate fans and opponents directed toward him, but he also used the year to realize his impact on the game.
In Phoenix, he spoke of hating the Suns. The hate was a compliment. While he wouldn’t try to stray from his cold-blooded persona, Bryant knew this year was about passing the torch — most notably in the Valley to Devin Booker.
But even if he hadn’t announced his retirement early in the year and made sure to visit opposing locker rooms, his legend wouldn’t be written much differently.
Basketball players from every age group identify with Bryant’s personality, and it wasn’t different in the Suns locker room Wednesday even though they were facing the Los Angeles Clippers in their own 2015-16 finale. The National Basketball Players Association asked both Booker and center Tyson Chandler what they admired about Bryant and what the Mamba’s most meaningful advice to them was.
Chandler, who grew up in Los Angeles, watched the Kobe and Shaq era and later played with Bryant on Team USA.
I just always felt like no matter what the circumstances were, he was going to win. The type of attitude that he approached the game with is what I witnessed from playing alongside him, and always being able to compete against him. He always had that belief and it rubbed off on his teammates.
Booker only played one game against Bryant, even going at the Lakers star with post moves stolen straight out of his book. Bryant gave Booker signed shoes afterward with the message: “Be legendary.”
He told me my future is in my hands and I have the skill set, footwork and things like that. He sees the potential, and he said, “The rest is up to you.” He said, “How much do you love the game of basketball? Whatever you dedicate into it is what you’re going to get out of it.” That’s just one thing that he kept stressing to me.
Honoring Bryant, of course, is happening on the court Wednesday.
Booker is breaking out black Kobe kicks in honor of the Black Mamba.
— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) April 13, 2016
Suns teammate P.J. Tucker apparently has been wearing Kobes of progressively darkening colorways over the last few games.
Chandler sent Bryant off with an Instagram photo of their USA Basketball days while Alex Len also posted a farewell picture on his social media account.
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