Kobe Bryant retired from the game of basketball as an all-time great.
There are many reasons why someone might call the Black Mamba an all-time great. Maybe it’s because of his knack for scoring the basketball, or because of his fundamentally sound offensive game. Maybe it’s even because of his lockdown defensive abilities.
Being an all-time great however goes far beyond the skills of a player, they must impact the game beyond the hardwood.
That’s the reason why legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are, well, legends. Although they possessed amazing skills on the court, the impact they had on the game was far greater. Michael Jordan ushered in a new era of great players such as Kobe himself. Magic Johnson changed the way how basketball was played. Every legend somehow made their mark in a way that can’t be measured in stats.
By that criteria, Kobe Bryant should also be considered as a legend.
Not only does he have the skill, but he too, has made his mark on the game of basketball in an intangible way.
When Kobe announced his retirement from the NBA, players current and former had nothing but high praise for the Mamba. Like Jordan in his career, Kobe also ushered in a new era of great players. LeBron James himself said he idolized Bryant in high school, constantly looking up to him. DeMar Derozan mentioned Kobe as someone who impacted the game of basketball. Russell Westbrook, who many compare to Kobe has admired the way Bryant played the game. There are tons of other stories from players themselves describing how Kobe has had an influence on them.
His “Mamba Mentality” phrase has caught on to players as well. Kyrie Irving who famously hit the go ahead three pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals credited Kobe and his Mamba Mentality for hitting that cold blooded dagger for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After the Golden State Warriors were down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder Thunder in the Conference Finals, Kobe sent a text to Draymond Green; a message that quickly caught on to the rest of his team to make history and overcome that deficit against the Thunder.
With Kobe now retired, he has even started working out with players, most notably, Russell Westbrook and Gordon Hayward. Aside from the intangibles that Kobe has had an impact on, players also want to learn the game from an all-time great.
He may have retired, but his impact still resonates greatly in the league.
Featured Image Credits go to: Paul Buck/EPA