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A letter to the Black Mamba.

Byline: Eriko Kristoffer C. Dela Cruz

DEAR Mr. Bryant,

This week, you have played your last game as a professional basketball player and member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the game will never be the same.

Nothing else can be said about your career. Your resume and accolades speak for themselves.

The millions of fans who have idolized and imitated you will always be a better story than what I can put into words. I have been one of your fans who wore your shoes and tried to hit a game-winning jumper just like you did time and time again.

Your legacy has been so big here that when Kiefer Ravena-arguably the best college player to grace the Philippine court in years-was a rookie, he was dubbed the Blue Mamba, using comparisons to your game.

Other great local professional players like James Yap have also been compared to you.

However, I am not here to talk about your exceptional skills and talent, but simply to tell how much you mean to us.

Thank you for showing the value of hard work. You were one of the league's (and world's) elite, and yet you always woke up at 4 in the morning for practice.

You didn't mind staying on the court after practice to polish your shooting, which had always been pretty darn good even if you sometimes slacked off.

Thank you for being a good example of working hard not only on the court, but off it, as well. You have inspired us to hone whatever talents we have and be so much more. Thank you for making us better persons.

Thank you for being very competitive. There was fire in your eyes when playing against the best, and you never stopped trying to play a great game.

Your head-to-head matchups with Michael Jordan, LeBron James and countless others were a sight to behold, truly awe-inspiring. These inspired us to overcome whatever stood in our way.

Thank you for demonstrating a sense of loyalty. You expressed disappointment over your team's misfortunes during the years that you have been playing. You even requested once that you be traded.

Despite all that, you stuck to your guns, and won more championships. This taught us to be loyal to our friends, family and team even in times we wanted out.

Thank you for being resilient. We have witnessed your personal problems on and off the court, and how you bounced back from them.

For some athletes, injury signifies the end of their career. To you, however, it was not. You have shown that no matter what happens, if you want it bad enough, you work for it and you succeed.

Your actions showed that whatever challenges life may bring, what matters is that you face it head-on and never give up.

We will take that learning with us even if we won't be seeing you play anymore.

Thank you for letting us realize how to be a good and effective mentor. When the younger generation of basketball stars entered the league, you became their teacher.

LeBron James, who was one of your fiercest competitors, saw you as a big brother because you contributed to who he is now-even if you had been adversaries for a good number of years. Your light inspires us to inspire others in whatever way we can.

Most of all, thank you, Kobe, for being you. There were some people who did not like you because they saw you as cocky, given your talent. You were seen as a ballhog who never learned to trust your teammates. Yet, you never changed your persona just to conform to society, or to be liked by others.

You lived your life just by being you, and this is an inspiration to those who are usually misunderstood by many.

I honestly did not like you for most of your career, but that was because you kept beating the teams and players that I liked. One thing's for sure, though, I respected you as a player and as a person.

Mr. Bryant, maraming salamat dahil naging bahagi ka ng aming buhay at nagsilbing inspirasyon sa maraming Pilipinong humanga sa iyong galing.

Your fan,

Eriko
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 15, 2016
Words:701
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