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  • Brett Zalaski

I Disliked Kobe the Laker. Kobe the Human Is Inspiration.

Here is the take that nobody needs...but I have a platform and I want to write what's been weighing on my heart...and what's sporadically brought me to tears over the last few days.

As a Celtics fan, I rooted against Kobe Bryant. Hard. In my mind he wasn't even Larry Bird...much less Michael Jordan. He was never going to get there. I bought into every negative thought said about him. He was selfish. He couldn't win without Shaq. He was overrated. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And, in 2003, amidst his sexual assault scandal, I bought into the idea that Kobe Bryant was not a good person. It perfectly fit the narrative that I wanted to create about the player I wanted to root against.

As I tried to find my way in this world, I found successes...but I also found lots of failure. I also became anxious and depressed...issues that really defined my actions for a while. And I grew to be more compassionate towards Kobe, a truly talented person and a truly good person who refused to be defined by his worst.

And I started to see him as a role model. I've felt compelled to ensure people know the best of me is truly who I am, not let the anxiety and depression define me, and work tirelessly to change the narrative for those who caught me in tougher times.

Kobe loved being a basketball player and had tremendous passion for sharing his insights and stories. He loved being viewed as someone who sought perfection in everything he did. He wanted to be known for his thirst for knowledge. And, more than anything, he found incredible peace and joy in being a father and a husband. He refused to be defined by his worst moment, and his openness, grace, and, most importantly, passion made that moment a footnote in the global outpouring of love and respect that has dominated the news in the most positive way since his passing.

I've changed, and I've grown, and I've attacked my issues, and I've found peace through my new family and my renewed faith. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't keeping one eye on Kobe as some inspiration.

On April 13th, 2016 I went to a San Jose Earthquakes game with a friend while I was in town for work. The Earthquakes have an incredibly huge bar in their stadium, and, after the match was concluded, we went over to the bar to watch two NBA games. On that night, the Warriors, one of my favorite teams as a kid, were going for their NBA record 73rd win. It was also Kobe's last game. You know, the one where he dropped 60 on the Jazz. And I barely watched the Warriors. I was cheering every Kobe basket like I was the biggest Kobe fan in the world. I was cheering for a man who was reviled by me and others at his lowest, took responsibility, then fought every day afterward to be remembered for his best. So he had the greatest last game of anyone ever. Because Kobe refused to be remembered for anything but his best.

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