Max Yera staff writer
Kobe Bryant’s historic career in purple and gold came to an end in epic fashion this past Wednesday.
The long awaited bittersweet finale was one for the ages as the Laker star concluded his career with a stellar 60-point performance and 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz.
“It was fun to watch,” Laker fan and Normans basketball varsity co-captain Max Walder said. “I fully expected him to shoot that much and I’m just glad that a lot of them went in.”
Bryant’s renowned work ethic and determination to win was on full display, as he sank a characteristically Kobe 3-pointer that gave his Lakers the lead with 59 seconds left to play.
It was this very work ethic that enabled Bryant throughout his career to inspire so many young basketball players, some of whom now comprise the Norman basketball team.
“I personally was never a Lakers fan or Kobe fan, but he’s an amazing basketball player and I respect him dearly,” Clippers fan and Norman varsity guard Grant Gaon said. “His drive to be great and his demeanor to play the game really inspired me.”
Of course, Bryant’s inspiration was not limited to merely the varsity basketball squad.
“Kobe inspired me to be the player I am today,” Norman junior varsity guard Jason Mehraban said. “He taught me to fight through any injury and pain I have and play through it.”
Mehraban can even fondly recall his earliest memories of imitating Bryant.
“When I was younger and the Lakers were playing, once the game went to commercial I would run outside and act like I was Kobe,” Mehraban said. “I would count down ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ and shoot my imaginary game winning shot.”
Yet Mehraban’s vision of himself as Bryant is perhaps one of many similar fantasies in the basketball player’s mind. JV forward Barry Gibbons, for example, has grown up with a similar sense of inspiration.
“Ever since I was a little kid I have always tried to copy what Kobe did in games. I’ve run similar scenarios in my head when I’m shooting alone,” Gibbons said. “Without Kobe I don’t know who could have inspired me to play the game. To be honest if it wasn’t for him, I probably would still be playing baseball.”
Girls’ varsity basketball guard Lauren Mo has also grown up idealizing Bryant and now even attributes much of her dedication to the sport to Bryant’s inspiration.
“I’ve grown up watching Kobe play the game he loves,” Mo said. “His dedication on and off the court has inspired me to play basketball and help my teammates on and off the court as well.”
Mo can now even use Bryant’s final performance this past Wednesday for further inspiration in the future.
“Now when I feel like I’ve worked the hardest I could, I can look back at Kobe’s last game for motivation to work even harder,” Mo said.
In this sense, though Bryant’s career has concluded, his legacy will live on not merely in the banners he left or the records he set, but through the athletes he inspired, many of whom now wear their orange and black uniforms with pride.