Every incoming rookie has their “Welcome to the NBA” moment. This usually comes courtesy of an established vet or a superstar firmly in their prime, who seizes the opportunity to show the young bloods just exactly what the league is all about. It can be a painful and humbling lesson. For some, it sends them spiraling into an existential crisis and has them questioning everything they thought they knew about the game of basketball.
Most, however, emerge stronger and wiser because of it. The opportunity to match up against a player they’ve idolized since they were a child has an enormously validating effect. Players who are hungry to learn as much as they can about the game study the best and add those elements to their repertoire.
That was Kobe Bryant, who in one of his most iconic photos, stands hunched over next to his idol, Michael Jordan, eagerly asking him questions about his footwork on his fade-away jump shot. The student eventually became the teacher, and Kobe would go on to influence a whole new generation of superstars.
On the anniversary of his passing, many of those stars took the opportunity to honor his memory by reminiscing about the first time they ever shared the court against him in their early careers.
What was it like to step onto the court against Kobe for very the first time? I spent weeks asking dozens of NBA players that question and wow, the stories that came out from Steph, LeBron, KD, Melo, John Wall, Kyrie, James Harden, Kyle Lowry, Draymond, Paul George & so many more pic.twitter.com/iUMQVfhnDI
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 26, 2021
One common thread throughout all their recollections was the sense of awe they felt just being in his presence. For many, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream. Kobe was often referred to as his generation’s Jordan, which was very much be design on his part, as he modeled his own game after GOAT.
No doubt Kobe will continue to influence and inspire future generations of basketball players, as his legacy will be kept alive, not just with tributes and homages, but through every turn-around fade-away, acrobatic layup, game-winner, and reverse tomahawk jam. Kobe’s spirit lives on in the game itself.