by James Velasquez
I remember May 2011 clearly: it was the first time I approached my previous employer to actually request for a story. I took pride in being a good company soldier, never bitched about the workload, always tried to come up with stories required of me. But this one I just had to have. Kobe Bryant was coming back to the country in July. I wanted the chance to interview Kobe Bryant. 5 minutes. One-on-one with the great one.
I didn’t sleep the night before. I had everything prepped, from my questions to the outfit. Underneath my black-long sleeved polo, I wore a black Nike tee with Kobe’s face in Laker gold on the front. On my feet, I rocked the Zoom Kobe V in Team USA’s red, white, and blue. I had to act professional in front of the Mamba, but underneath I was a basketball fanboy basking in basketball euphoria. He walks in the room, and I just barely manage to conceal my fanboy grin. Then bam, I lose it. I just shook the hand of the best clutch player in the game right now. That’s the shooting hand of the guy who scored 81 points in a game.
I manage to get back to business and ask him my first question, “You’ve done almost everything in the game, what else does Kobe Bryant have left to prove?” He replies with something that explains his very essence to me.
“Most of the time, going out to ‘prove something’ works, but when I walk out on the floor it’s always about giving the best in what I do. When I get out there, I’m ready to play, I’m ready to go, I want to win.”
Hearing Kobe’s thoughts on the game of basketball and in life via YouTube fan tributes is one thing, getting him to say it to me face-to-face is another. Kobe Bryant is a winner through and through (much to Vanessa Bryant’s delight I suppose). It’s all about showing your respect to what you love by making sure you do everything to the best of your ability.
It’s like saying, be the Kobe Bryant of the Sales Department. Be the Black Mamba of the Bank. Kill the heck out of that pasta you’re cooking for your girlfriend. Let out that Kobe-scowl when you get the last parking spot at the San Juan Arena for the NCAA games (never mind that the guard is giving you a puzzled look). Be so good in whatever you do, even the nastiest of haters will have to respect you.
Haters gon’ hate. Call him MJ’s clone. Say he’s done in the era of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But if you ask me, this man has too much pride to just fade into retirement. That, plus a hall-of-fame point guard, a skilled Spaniard, a Rottweiler named Metta World Peace, and the most dominating force in the paint in the game today to back him up.
He’s ready to play. He’s ready to go. He wants to win.
Happy birthday, Kobe Bryant! JV
James Velasquez is a sports anchor for the NCAA on AKTV and writes for SLAM Philippines. He was a former TV news reporter for GMA News before becoming a part-time sports commentator and full-time sneakerhead. Follow @_jamesvelasquez on Twitter.