If ever there was an athlete who I considered invincible, it was Kobe Bryant. Not in metaphorical terms, à la Usain Bolt on the track, Michael Phelps in the pool, or Floyd Mayweather in the ring. He had something extra, an aura that made him both the most talented and the most interesting person in the room, hell, the entire stadium. He was an assured character with unwavering confidence, a confidence that never once crossed that thin line to arrogance. Away from basketball, he effortlessly morphed into an articulate charmer who’d warrant consideration for anybody’s fantasy dinner-party guest. Man, he was cool.
A handsome polyglot named after a globally renowned cut of beef, who won an Oscar to accompany his myriad basketball achievements – what’s not to love? Well, maybe the rape charge. I am human, and inclined to let my biases influence my opinions. I choose to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo forced himself upon that poor woman, because I don’t like him, and my perceptions of his character warp my partiality when judging his guilt. I choose to believe that Kobe Bryant was innocent of the same accusation, for the very same reasons. The truth is we cannot ever know, and it pains me to think that his accuser might be watching the world’s adulation of him knowing that he does not deserve it.
Much ink has been spilled eulogising Kobe Bryant’s competitiveness. His unrivalled drive to be the best is without fail the string to his bow most-extolled. Kobe Bryant’s idea of discipline made your own look weak. Generations of strivers to come will embody his Mamba Mentality, whether they know the provenance of the expression or not. This is not what drew me to the man in the slightest, not one bit. It was his nervelessness, his ability, and his character, traits that made him an icon in a city of stars. Now he is an angel watching over the City of Angels.