How did Kobe Bryant impact your love for basketball?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): It was Kobe Bryant that allowed me to begin to love the game of basketball. Bryant’s unparalleled confidence and swagger is something I latched onto and tried to emulate no matter what sport I was playing. The mamba mentality was something that always stuck with as not just wanting to be good, but finding a way to go the extra mile and be great.

When the terrible news came out yesterday, it was an experience I will never forgot. The utter shock and sadness that filled the Pepsi Center was felt around the world because of the impact Bryant had on so many. I remember my first pair of Kobe’s and wanting to be like the guy that wore #24 so badly that no matter when I shot something — whether it was trash, laundry, or especially a basketball — my favorite thing was to yell “Kobe!”

Moments like that are never going away. I will still yell “Kobe!” whenever I shoot something and that mamba mentality is something that will stay with me forever. Kobe lived everyday to be the best version of himself and even though I never knew him, you always knew he was doing just that.

I will leave this post with a story that happened Monday morning. I just started substitute teaching a couple months ago and was subbing for a middle school English class. After the students read for 20 minutes to begin the class, they got a 3-minute break. Once the break began, a few students rolled a couple sheets of paper into balls and said “Let’s shoot buckets for Kobe.”

The moral of that story: Kobe Bryant is not going anywhere.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): For many Nuggets fans, it may be hard to come to grips on celebrating the on-court excellence of Kobe. It came at the expense of the Nuggets so many times, most notably in the 2009 Western Conference Finals when Denver was just one series away.

However, while Nuggets fans may not have liked Kobe, there was a begrudging respect factor he invoked so many times. 20 years in the NBA, coming straight from high school, five championships, and impossible after impossible clutch shot. Above all else, Kobe was the player who made the impossible seem possible. When his team needed him most, Kobe delivered more often than most anyone to ever play the sport. There was also a certain beauty to Bryant’s isolation and post game that may never be replicated ever again. The subtleties and nuances he applied to every move helped extend his career and extend his legend to the farthest reaches of the world.

That is what I will remember most about Kobe. His unmatched competitiveness and greatness. He didn’t let detractors pull him down, but instead rose to the occasion and wowed not just his fans and teammates but also an entire generation of basketball players. Some were good enough to join him in the NBA, but others (like me) will just have to be content with shouting “Kobe!” any time I shoot something into a basket. The story of basketball will never be told again without invoking the name of Kobe Bryant, and his journey will always be one of the greatest examples of what makes basketball the sport that I love.

Evan Fiala (@eefiala): Like many Nuggets fans around my age it was probably Carmelo Anthony who impacted me the most when it came to getting into basketball.

It was Kobe Bryant, however, who developed in me the emotional connection with the game. I HATED when they played the Lakers because it almost always resulted in a loss. But seeing how dedicated Kobe was to his craft, his desire to be the best at all costs garnered nothing but respect from me.

He also made me love the Nuggets even more. Whenever the Lakers were in town and subsequently 34 of Pepsi Center would be in purple in gold I felt nothing but pride for my city despite all the bandwagoners.

Watching him and Carmelo go at it in the Western Conference Finals in 2009 was pure joy. Seeing him play live with my dad (“you have to see him play live at least once”) is a memory I will never forget.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I have never been a Laker fan, nor a huge Kobe Bryant growing up. I’ll never claim to be one, but he did something that the greatest players in every sport have the ability to do. He commanded your respect for the greatness and determination he showed at his craft. He was willing to do more to better himself than anyone else that stepped on the floor with him.

Leading up to his final game against the Utah Jazz, I read every piece of content that was put out about Kobe because it wasn’t your typical game preview. You were getting to see behind the curtain and learn what made him who he was. You learned about the 4:30 a.m. workouts before taking his daughters to Disney World and heading back into the gym at the end of the day.

Kobe was ever-present in my life because, even though I wasn’t an overwhelming basketball fan, he was always on my TV. The Lakers were the premier draw, and they were always on as a result. I got to watch one of the most determined individuals force his body to its limits every single night. I don’t know that we will ever see a player with the drive and determination that Kobe showed, and I think that, along with forever yelling “Kobe” when throwing a piece of paper into the trash, will live on forever in my mind.

Kobe is the shining example of what someone should strive to be no matter what field of work they were in. The guy shot free throws on a torn Achilles for Pete’s sake. Even after basketball, his presence loomed large in the game of basketball, but it was amazing to watch him in his life outside of the game with his family. He didn’t change how he did anything in life. It was always giving everything he could to be the best that he could. Kobe was far from a perfect individual, and he would have admitted as much. However, he’s a pretty good example of how to go about a lot of things in your life.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): I grew up watching Kobe play basketball, and while I’ve never, even been confused for a Lakers fan before, I definitely respected Kobe over many players in the league. I was captivated by his drive, by his competitiveness, and his resolve to be the best. I was drawn in by his stubborn refusal to not accept failure.

I was in high school when the Nuggets started getting good, so I got to see a lot of really good Kobe games. He was such an incredible athlete, and he worked so hard on every detail of his game. I knew next to nothing about basketball, but I could tell that he was a master at the game. I wanted the Nuggets to beat him so badly, because that would mean they had knocked off one of the best.

I’m going to miss his insights and contributions to the sport of basketball. He was on track to be a great part of the future of basketball, both in the NBA and WNBA. I would argue that few understood the game better than he did, and he truly loved the sport. This one hurts.