“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. – Harvey Dent.

Or maybe it should be the other way round? In the case of Kobe Bryant, it definitely is. Here we are five months after the Black Mamba announced his retirement and the outpouring of emotion from every city and every basketball arena has been tremendous. For those who didn’t get to see Michael Jordan growing up, this was the next best thing. Some would call it an imitation. Others would argue his position as greatest of all time. One thing that I do know about Kobe, is that no one in the sports world elicited as much emotion from the common man as the Black Mamba throughout his 20-year career.

First off, the argument should never have been “was Kobe Bryant really a good player or not?” If you watched the game, you knew he was a monster. And I’m saying this as a longtime Celtics fan. The man was damn good at basketball and it’s hard to say if there was anyone else in the league that worked harder at their craft than he did. One could argue that the strong hatred that was directed towards him in his career came from the fact that he killed your favorite team at some point over his career. Or it might come from an infamous event that occurred in Colorado but that’s neither here nor there. Regardless, this 2015-16 NBA season has become one that’s ultimately been about celebrating the career before his 2013 Achilles tear; remembering the Kobe that threw the famed alley-oop to Shaq against the Blazers to put the exclamation point on a 16-point comeback in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The Kobe in the 2000 NBA Finals that took over Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers when Shaquille O’Neal had fouled out of the game. The Kobe that scored 62 points in 3 quarters (33 minutes) against the Dallas Mavericks. The Kobe that, just a few weeks later, dropped 81 points on the Raptors in January, 2006.  The Kobe who won Los Angeles Lakers to two more championships in 2009 and 2010 after Shaq had left L.A. The man who defied the odds and dragged the Lakers to the playoffs on his aging back and legs in 2013, and hit those two free throws with a torn Achilles tendon to seal the victory against the Golden State Warriors.

As a fan of the game, you can’t help but love Kobe. At the very least you have to respect him for his skill and his contribution to the popularity of basketball worldwide. For me, Kobe Bryant retired on the day in the video above – April 12, 2013. It was a pleasure to watch him play at times and I loved to hate him in others. Either way, I’m thankful for the experience and I wish him all the best in whatever the future holds.

Viva Kobe Bryant. Farewell.