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Thank you, Kobe

Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball on November 29. (photo/ Grantland.com)

On November 29, Kobe Bryant announced to the world that he would be retiring from the game of basketball. He did it poetically, through a release from The Player’s Tribune, which has become an increasingly popular outlet for athletes to turn to when they want to express themselves.

When I heard the news, I believed it. To put it bluntly, Kobe looks old. He has looked old this season, he looked old last season, and I’m willing to say that he looked old two seasons before that.

But the news of his retirement controlled my entire day. It felt like someone had died, someone that I knew my entire life; someone that I didn’t have a great relationship with, but he/she was very important to me nonetheless.

That’s because as a kid, I despised Kobe. I grew up supporting the Denver Nuggets, back when they had Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and they contended for Western Conference titles every year.

The Lakers always got in their way. They were usually one of the top seeds in the West, and every year, Kobe would ruin my fun. The farthest Denver ever got to a title was in 2009, when they lost to L.A. in the Western Conference Finals. My heart was broken, and it was all due to #24 making miraculous jump shots, playing lockdown defense, and refusing to lose.

And I hated him for it.

But when I look back on those days, especially now, I feel so lucky.

I am so lucky that I got to witness Kobe during the end of his prime. I am lucky to have been alive, and been a basketball fan, to see him win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.

As an athlete myself, there is nothing better that I could have watched than Kobe in his prime. He was a relentless competitor, he refused to lose, and he worked his tail off behind the scenes. This made him the greatest player of his generation.

The myths and stories about him working out 15 hours per day, getting up at 3 a.m. to start his conditioning regimen, stuck with me. It let me know that success isn’t handed to you, and that the best players work for everything.

And conveniently, at around the time that Kobe was winning titles in 2009 and 2010, I started to take the game of basketball more seriously. It went from being a fun hobby to something that I obsessed over, that I wanted to get better at every day. I believe that Kobe was a part of that.

So, when I heard that Kobe was retiring, I believed it. Like I said earlier, these past few seasons have been a significant drop-off from the ones in 2009, 2010 and before.

But inside, I was remorseful. Kobe’s retirement marks the end of an era. It felt like a piece of my childhood was retiring with him, and the nostalgia hit me hard.

The world will never see another Kobe Bryant. He brought certain intangibles to the game of basketball that many don’t see, but have changed the game forever. For someone that I hated so much during my youth, the fact that I get emotional thinking about him retiring says something.

It says that I respect him. And I always will.

Thank you, Kobe.