I remember when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the NBA prior to the 2015-2016 season. It was unofficially deemed the "Farewell Tour" of Kobe Bryant's departure from the game of basketball.

The 2015-2016 season consisted of standing ovations, tribute videos, jersey exchanges, sold out crowds, and memorable post game press conferences: for every single game, in every single city. The only thing that truly differentiated that season from the NINETEEN others, was that it was the last time we would have the privilege to witness it. But standing ovations, sold out crowds, and memorable press conferences in every single game, and every single city, went hand in hand when mentioning the name "Kobe Bean Bryant" ...

Kobe Effect

Kobe Bryant "averaged" an 8.5% attendance increase in opposing arenas throughout his entire career, which is the second best average ever only behind one Michael Jordan.

Opposing teams always had Lakers games circled because they knew the venue would be sold out. When Kobe was in town, the fans followed. In 2010, Kobe gave visiting arenas a 13% increase in attendance compared to their average the rest of the year.

Awards

5x NBA Champion / 4x All Star game MVPs /  2x Finals MVP / 2x scoring champion / 11x All NBA first team / 18x All Star / in 20 seasons, for ONE team.

The most devastating part of all of this in my opinion, the best was yet to come...

Life after Ball

We started to see Kobe sitting court side, often with his daughter Gianna or "GiGi". Most recently, on January 17th, where a video of Kobe and GiGi sharing a moment together ended up going viral throughout the internet. Who knew then how much this clip would mean just 10 short days later? The short clip is depicting a beautiful basketball mind, an amazing father, coach and storyteller.

Just two years after retiring from the NBA, Kobe won an Oscar and an Emmy for the animated short he created titled "Dear Baskeball". This idea was based off of his poem he wrote in the Players Tribune describing his love for the game of basketball as he said "goodbye" to it in 2016.

Kobe was just getting started. His skill set as a storyteller and a communicator (and doing so in multiple languages) was just beginning to be shared with the world.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Below is the poem Kobe Bryant wrote back in 2016 detailing his love for the game as he said goodbye to the NBA. I remember reading it back in '16.  I can't put in to words what the passing of Kobe Bryant means or feels like.

But after the tragic passing that occurred on January 26th, 2020, it reads differently, and gives you a glimpse into who Kobe Bryant REALLY was, and that was a writer and a storyteller...

Dear Basketball,

From the moment

I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,
Kobe

My version, titled "Dear Mamba":

Dear Mamba,

From the Moment

We saw the lob to Shaq vs. The Kings

and mimicking your fade away

game winners in the driveway

We knew one thing was real:

Your Greatness

From a six year old boy to a 60 year old man

they all lined up for YOU

to see YOU run out that tunnel

YOU played through the sweat and the hurt

A PHILLY kid, so you always gave it your all

From Lower Merion

To LA and Beijing, everyone knew no matter where it was

MAMBA came to Ball...

I can't believe the clock has run out for Kobe Bryant. Can't even draw up one more play, And now its our turn to say goodbye to the man. .

We will never know what Kobe would have done next .

My guess? With the ball in his hands?

...It would have been a game winner

Koooooobbeeeeeee

Harry How, Getty Images

RIP KOBE BEAN BRYANT