Tenacity and drive are just two of the attributes that made Kobe Bryant an inspiration to many, writes Andrew Gaze.
Tenacity and drive are just two of the attributes that made Kobe Bryant an inspiration to many, writes Andrew Gaze.

How Kobe became an inspiration to so many

I was blessed to spend time with Kobe Bryant during an Adidas promotion in Australia in 1998.

For three days we went from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. It was a fantastic time as we engaged with the community and prize winners in a basketball setting.

But I was also able to get an insight into the drive of the man that has become a basketball legend.

A fan pays respects at a mural depicting Kobe Bryant in a downtown Los Angeles alley. Picture: AP
A fan pays respects at a mural depicting Kobe Bryant in a downtown Los Angeles alley. Picture: AP

Kobe just wanted to win, even when he was competing in one-on-one games against some of the prize winners who weren't necessarily that familiar with the sport.

Kobe was highly determined to win, but in a fun and respectful way.

I think the thing that stuck out the most was his drive and love for the game.

And although my time with him during the promotional tour was at the very beginning of his career, you could still see how that drive was such an important part of his success.

Some 18 years later you see him snap his achilles in 2013. He faced a very difficult situation with his body and health, but he still had this passion and love for the game that drove him to want to come back to compete and challenge himself at the highest level.

Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot between the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, left, and Al Jefferson during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, in Februaary 2006. Picture: AP
Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot between the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, left, and Al Jefferson during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, in Februaary 2006. Picture: AP

While I didn't get to know Kobe personally, I was fortunate to receive a brief insight into him.

To then see him grow and follow his career, I've taken inspiration from the standards that he was able to achieve and his incredible success with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Five NBA championships is phenomenal. He won those titles in a way that he was able to extract the best out of himself and his teammates.

You read the stories and watch documentaries, and clearly he was an incredible motivation to his teammates.

Kobe Bryant with Andrew Gaze in Sydney in 2008. Picture: Supplied
Kobe Bryant with Andrew Gaze in Sydney in 2008. Picture: Supplied

He pushed them to a level of excellence that he was trying to achieve every day.

Kobe will be remembered as one of the greatest basketballers of all time.

I think the five NBA championships stamp him in a very rare group of players that have been able to achieve that level of success.

Kobe's two gold medals for Team USA in 2008 and 2012 can often be understated, but I believe they are equally as important as his NBA titles.

Kobe Bryant shoots as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, left, and forward Bismack Biyombo, of Congo, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, in Los Angeles. Picture: AP
Kobe Bryant shoots as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, left, and forward Bismack Biyombo, of Congo, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, in Los Angeles. Picture: AP

He came through in an era where the basketball world was catching up to the Americans.

USA's dominance was being tested against some very good global teams, but there were several games where Kobe individually was able to perform to a level to help maintain the No.1 status of American basketball.

If it wasn't for some of his exploits, I don't think the Americans walk away with those gold medals.

Kobe's athleticism, grace on the court, and his dogged determination, were things that everyone that has picked up a basketball can admire and be in awe of.

Kobe's brilliance was such that even if you didn't love or know much about the game of basketball, if you watched him play you could still appreciate the greatness because of the way he played the game.

He played with so much joy and incredible athleticism that he was respected and admired by even the untrained eye.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals, in Los Angeles, in June 2009. Picture: AP
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals, in Los Angeles, in June 2009. Picture: AP
Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O'Neal shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant on the bench while their teammates take on the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Picture: AP
Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O'Neal shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant on the bench while their teammates take on the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Picture: AP


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