Kobe Bryant wasn’t just a basketball player: he was an inspiration. Despite having come between two of the biggest superstars in basketball history (Michael Jordan and LeBron James), Kobe was the guy that many players today looked up to when they were growing up.
In fact, the Bean apparently meant more to players as a role-model than anybody else.
For DeMar DeRozan, watching Bryant helped expand his love and knowledge for the game like nobody else.
For me, Kobe was my imagination. Growing up when I started to understand and comprehend basketball at a young age, it was from Kobe and being a Lakers fan.
For Jamal Murray, Kobe’s “Mamba mentality” helped to drive him to become the player he is today.
“It’s the mentality,” Murray said. “My dad looked up to (Michael Jordan) first. And then Kobe came, then Kobe became my dad’s favorite player, and I started watching him. His mentality. It was his drive to win, it was his never give up on plays, his confidence level in himself and what he could do, his belief in his team, just everything. Everything that goes into a championship type of guy and team, that’s the way he acts.”
Paul George told USA Today that Kobe was his Michael Jordan.
“He was my Michael Jordan,” Paul George said. “Growing up as a SoCal kid, he was what everybody, every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe. I attacked the game the way he played both ends. I took so much things away from him, and he made a big impression on me as a kid, just about how to go about playing the game. I credit everything, aside from God-given talent, I credit everything else from him.”
Bryant was also “that guy” for Steph Curry, who recalls how big of an impact the Lakers star was on his life.
“He was our generation’s Jordan in terms of iconic moves, ISO stuff, fadeaways, game-winners. Something about his name even just rolls off the tongue nice when you’re counting down three, two, one, you yell ‘Kobe!’ when you knock it down.”
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) January 23, 2021
Judging from the comments of these players, Kobe made a lasting impression on those who got to watch him work. His mentality and approach to the game, and to life, served as an inspiration and motivation to countless individuals in ways nobody has replicated.