Lakers’ fans prepare to bid farewell to Kobe

Filipino Americans all over the world adore Kobe.  NBA photo.

Filipino Americans all over the world adore Kobe. NBA photo.

By Leandre Ochoa

(Editor’s note: Filipinos’ passion for basketball as a national past time has been embraced by their immigrant communities all over the world. Los Angeles-born with Filipino roots Leandre Ochoa, 29 and an avid Lakers’ fan since 5, traces the rise and fall of his team and his idol during the last few weeks of the NBA season).

“I have self doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”

These are words once spoken by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe “Bean” Bryant. The once ever so spry, athletic, and for many years the invincible and arguably the 2nd best shooting guard to ever play the game is past halfway point of his 20th and final NBA season.

The 2015-2016 NBA season is finished next month with the Lakers currently posting a 14– 55 record, which is good for dead in the competitive Western Conference. With the all-star break looming ahead next month, many of those in and around the NBA take this time to rest and reflect. Kobe Bryant, 37, is the leading All-Star vote leader for this year’s annual All-Star game, has much reflecting to do himself.

In a season that has solidified the Lakers as a team of rebuilding and youthfulness, Bryant is nearing the end of his historic and legacy filled career, which in turn does not echo the same sentiments of the Lakers current state. That self doubt Kobe talks about speaks volumes in the sense where, as tenured and refined Kobe the basketball player is, the retired version of Kobe is probably not as polished.

If asked by anyone what the biggest thing he’s going to miss about the game, Bryant would go through the template answers for such a question. From the battles he endured against his fiercest rivals, to the simplicity of how the basketball sounds going through the net, to the camaraderie shared amongst him and his teammates.

This final season of Kobe Bryant’s grandiose career is ultimately a farewell tour of sorts; with every one of his stops in opponent’s arenas seem more of a celebration of his legacy then feeling the pressure of enemy territory. In his previous 19 seasons, it would be customary for Bryant to focus on his opponent. The task at hand was to demolish and implore his will over the opponent, more often than not in a menacing fashion.

Cheering not Jeering

This season, Bryant and his Lakers have spent 24 of the 41 games played on the road, with each game greeting Bryant with welcoming video montages and lavish gifts instead of raucous jeering.

Most recently a game played in Boston against the Celtics, the most hostile of opposing Laker environments, had the crowd unfamiliarly chanting his name throughout the game, rooting for him as if he were playing for the Celtics. A visit to North Carolina saw Bryant greeted by a video message by current owner of the Charlotte Hornets Michael Jordan, while a recent trip to the Bay Area saw Golden State Warriors executive Jerry West leaving a heartfelt message for the superstar.

Jerry West, known as the “Icon”, was integral into getting Kobe traded to the Lakers from the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. After a successful reign as General Manager/Executive Vice-President for the Lakers, West had continued success as president of the Memphis Grizzlies winning the Executive of the Year award in 2004, and currently is an executive board member of the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.


As much at piece Bryant seems to be with his decision of leaving the game, there is always that uncertainty that lies ahead. Revealed in his Showtime documentary “Muse”, Bryant explains that life after basketball will be bit of a challenge.

“I’m afraid, too,” “You really have to lean on the muses and mentors going forward, just as I did as a kid. It’s about having that next wave of things, which is scary as hell, but it’s fun at the same time.”

What seems to be an honest answer about the reality of life after the NBA lays Bryant’s uneasiness. Michael Jordan, a legend in his own right knows of the difficulty of leaving such brilliance and the bright spotlight, as he returned to the NBA after two separate retirements.

Jordan mentions in his video message to Bryant, “Your next step, I’m sure you are going to have to figure out from a competitive stand point, I’m pretty sure you’re just like me, you’re going to have to find other ways to utilize that competitive drive. I am a big fan; I still love watching you play. Looking forward to see what you do after this.” Jordan’s final words are, “Take care and Good Luck.”

While those sentiments feel heartfelt and pleasant, for Bryant, those words are not to be taken lightly. Michael Jordan knew about the rigors of basketball life before Kobe did. Jordan knew how hard it was to make it into the NBA and what kind of determination and persistence it took to not only sustain a career, but dominate. After seeing Kobe’s career pan out, Jordan can honestly say he is proud of what Kobe has done for the game of basketball, and can enjoy looking back at Bryant’s career. Jordan, almost being some sort of reminder from the future, insists to Kobe that activities outside of basketball are difficult if not more.

Kobe, a true student of the game saw everything else in his life to be secondary.

Kobe Inc.

“Can I jump over two or three guys like I used to? No. Am I as fast as I used to be? No, but I still have the fundamentals and smarts. As a kid growing up, I never skipped steps. I always worked on fundaments because I know athleticism is fleeting.”

Knowing that he would soon be losing most of his athleticism, Bryant saw it as imperative to find ways to keep sharp and hone in on the tools that were given to him. Within those months of rehab, Kobe spent a lot of that time thinking about his future and how to build his brand even more. Thus – Kobe Inc, Bryant’s first company.

Bryant established Kobe Inc. in order to grow his brand by growing other brands in the sports industry. His very first company he invested in was the Body Armor sports drink. Kobe Bryant, the ever so evolving figure, continued to find ways to adapt to his situation. Expanding his horizons outside of basketball is definitely a trying time. Bryant has already refuted becoming a coach in the future, citing his inability to go out and physically help the team if in need and his lack of patience amongst development of players. While ruling out the possibility of becoming a coach, the idea of owning a team has definitely crossed his mind.

“If I’m involved in basketball from a league perspective, it would be from an ownership perspective.”

With another injury-plagued season in 2014 ending with a season ending torn rotator cuff, the beginning of the end for Bryant became a reality. After feeling rejuvenated by the rehab process in the offseason, many anticipated the return of Bryant for the upcoming 2015 season, and to see how the young core of Julius Randle, Filipino American Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russel would mesh the remnants of the perennial All-NBA superstar. The expectation for a reasonable season took a rapid turn with Bryant averaging career lows in shooting percentage and point average. Bryant’s retirement announcement just came 16 days into the 2015-2016 season.

Life after basketball

Acknowledging the uncertainty of basketball afterlife and accepting the inevitability definitely makes it easier for Bryant to cope with his situation. The warm video montages, and messages left by opposing teams to a certain extent are basketball eulogies. The championships, the MVP awards, all-star nods, and all the accolades conclude into the recognition of brilliance that greet Bryant before every game. Bryant fans and detractors alike want him to do well in his future endeavors.

Although the idea that once your basketball career is over, a piece of you has died may seem inane for some, but for Kobe Bryant, once an unstoppable force in the NBA, that idea isn’t so far from the truth. What lies in the unknown past Bryant’s 20th season will continue to bear a sense of uneasiness for Bryant, even if the decision to hang it up sets him at ease.

There is a sense of apprehension about the uncertainty of life after basketball, but no one doubts the ability for Bryant to excel in any outlet. Whether bringing Kobe Inc’s brand to a global standard, following in the footsteps of Jordan, once again, by owning an NBA team, or following the graces of Jerry West in becoming a successful NBA executive, time will only tell. Bryant can prepare for his basketball afterlife to the best of his ability, but like most things in life, you wont really know how to deal with a situation until you get there.

Leave a Reply