Remembering Kobe Bryant
Updated: May 28
By J. Isaac Noel Benjamin, II
If you had tapped me on the shoulder with a “hey, dude, how would you like to meet the legendary “Mamba” and participate in a basketball camp with him.” You might have garnered a quizzical raised eyebrow. “Yes”… he’s a five-time NBA Champion and third all time in scoring.”
In 1996, I met Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s affiliation with the University of Connecticut was long standing.
I graduated from the University of Connecticut. I used to tell people that I graduated from UCONN. Mostly, people would respond with “what were you doing in the Yukon?”
In 1996 I met a skinny 6’ 8” young black man at a basketball camp on the campus of UCONN. At the time, I didn’t know who Kobe Bryant was or what he would mean to basketball, as well as the sports world. His first cousin and fellow restaurant manager got me involved in the basketball camp.
Turns out, this tall young black man would bypass college sports and go straight to the NBA.
It also turns out that he was the youngest player to ever be drafted by the NBA. As a life-long Laker fan, imagine how pleased I was to have met him. Bryant’s basketball career spanned 20 season and was just as impressive as his start:
• Five world championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
• 33,570 points (third all-time in NBA history)
• Eighteen All-Star selections.
• Fifteen All-NBA selections.
• Four All-Star MVPs.
• Two Finals MVPs.
• The 2007-08 regular season MVP
Bryant scored 50 or more points in 25 games (one of them in playoffs), including 10 in 2006-2007 (Lakers record). Bryant has joined Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor as the only NBA players with multiple 60-point games and Bryant is the only player other than Chamberlain with at least 4 consecutive 50-plus games.
On January 22, 2006, in a game against the Toronto Raptors he dropped in 81 points. The 18,997 fans at the Staples Center thought they were getting ready for another Laker loss. Instead, they became witness to basketball history. Bryant scored 55 points in the second half. The second-best scoring show of all times and the best in 44 years. The only record standing in top of Bryant's 81 points is the legendary 100-point performance of Wilt Chamberlain against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.
While comparing Bryant’s achievements to Michael Jordon is meant to be a compliment, the fact of the matter is, Bryant’s skill and determination was Kobe-like. Bryant cut his own path.
If you were to compile a list of NBA players to win five NBA titles with the same team, it would give you some perspective as to just how special Bryant’s talent were. Fellow teammates Michael Cooper and Derek Fisher join Bryant collecting five title with the same team (Lakers). Magic Johnson (Show-time) also collected five NBA titles with the Lakers. Jordan claimed six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. The Boston Celtic and a host of their players are in a category all by themselves.
As a former athlete, martial artist (MMA) and Laker fan I lived vicariously through Bryant’s exploits. I was over-joyed with the showtime Lakers and really pleased to relive that level of domination again. Without question, I am saddened to learn of his passing, but incredible blessed to have met and broke bread with the legendary “Mamba.”