Adams: An open letter to Kobe and Gigi
Hayden Adams | Thursday, February 6, 2020
No words will suffice to encapsulate what you meant, but I’ll give it a shot. And as I shoot, like every kid from my generation, I’m saying: “Kobe.”
Kobe, you never knew who I was; you never even knew that I existed. And that’s not your fault.
But I wanted you to know me. I wanted to be like you in so many ways.
I wanted to be 6’6” like you. I wanted to be as good as you. More than anything though, I wanted your work ethic.
And yet, I fell short. In my defense, though, pretty much everyone did compared to you. Only Michael Jordan was even close to your work ethic, and you probably beat him there. Heck, you might’ve had a greater legacy than Jordan if injuries hadn’t caught up with you, but I guess that’s what happens when you wake up at 3 a.m. every morning to get up shots long before your teammates rub the sleep from their eyes.
You were a relatively spoiled child with a professional athlete father who played in Italy, but you didn’t let that hold you back, as ridiculous as that statement may sound. You took what you were given and cultivated it. You had a dream and you protected it and saw it to fruition.
Few people were ever tougher than you. If I was picking an all-time line-up of toughness, you and Larry Bird are headlining it. Easy.
You didn’t go to college, but you strove for greatness in everything you did, regardless. You were reading TIME magazine on team trips as a teenager. You called up businessmen to learn how to be a good one yourself. You asked J.K. Rowling to teach you how to write. You won an Oscar for crying out loud. Was there anything you couldn’t do?
You were heralded out of high school, but didn’t play much your first year. But you took the lessons you learned and exploded onto the scene.
You helped give Phil Jackson his third three-peat with Shaq, then carried two more teams with Pau Gasol as the second-best player to championships.
You surpassed Jordan for third all-time on the scoring list. Even so, you only won the scoring title twice. That’s an embodiment of consistency and longevity surpassed only by Kareem, Malone and now Lebron.
You scored 81 points in a regular season game and 60 in the final game of your career. You hold the record for career game winners, had a couple of poster dunks, and won five NBA championships. But scoring wasn’t all you could do.
You were a nine-time First Team All-Defense and three-time Second Team All-Defense selection. You won the slam dunk competition as a rookie with a between-the-legs slam. You were an 18-time All-Star and four-time All-Star Game MVP. You only won one regular season MVP, but you deserved more in my opinion.
Oh, and don’t forget the two Olympic gold medals.
As part of the 2008 “Redeem team,” you put the entire weight of the United States’ Olympic hopes on your shoulders, and you took us to the promised land.
You asked Jordan for advice on your fadeaway in the middle of a game. You slapped Steph Curry on the butt after he hit a three despite you hounding him, because real recognizes real. And, according to Lou Williams, you threw away all your Lakers teammates’ Kobe brand shoes because they were losing so bad they didn’t deserve to wear them.
You were (almost) everything I wanted to be.
You made a big mistake, one that I’m not well educated on, but a mistake nonetheless. None of us knew who you really were behind closed doors, but then again, we don’t really know that about anybody, even our own family members.
You weren’t who, but what, I strove to be, and I think you would understand the difference.
As I said, your work ethic was legendary, one I envied. You would beat your teammates to the gym even when they tried to get there at 3 a.m., even when you broke your hand and were shooting left-handed in your pajamas.
And when teammate J.R. Rider trash-talked you, you settled it like men with a one-on-one scrimmage after practice. And then you owned him like a child as other teammates were waving white towels and praying for you to stop the beatdown.
And I have to say, just writing “your work ethic ‘was’ legendary” hurt more than anything else I’ve written in the past tense. That’s just how legendary it was.
And now, I have to say, it’s tragic that you died, but even more tragic that your daughter Gigi did as well. You were young, but you’d already done more than most in their entire lives. Gigi had it all in front of her, and you heralded her as your second coming.
Gigi, I wish you would have made strides for the women’s game like your dad was doing. I wish we could have seen what you would become.
Kobe and Gigi, no words suffice for what you meant to those who knew you best and those you never knew, like me. Shine down on those following in your footsteps.
And, speaking for the generation that yelled “Kobe,” whether we were throwing a ball through a hoop or some paper into the recycling bin, know that you meant more than you ever realized.
R.I.P Big and Little Mambas.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.