On Thursday, NBA legend and Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant was commemorated and recognized with a statue outside of the Lakers' arena. Bryant's effect on the game was profound and his impact has lived on forever.
The four-time NBA champion has reached the younger generation of hoopers, as many have donned either the number eight or 24, in memory of Kobe. Houston Rockets forward Jae'Sean Tate was interviewed for the tribute video and explained why he wears the number eight.
"When I came to Houston, I had the opportunity to go back to [number] eight. It's something that I just keep in the back of my head. Just that mentality, that everyday grind, that everyday work that Kobe had."
Rockets players pay tribute to Lakers great, NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Rockets guard Jalen Green has also previously explained how Bryant has had a positive impact on him, as well, as he grew up idolizing Bryant.
"He’s for sure a hero to me. I think the mentality part and the hard work. And I got a chance to really study his game and really lock in on what he does and how he approaches the game and everything he did to get to the point where he was [when I was] in the bubble.
That was a time where I really got to study him and figure it out.”
Bryant got into some testy battles with the Rockets, who regularly defended him with Shane Battier, one of the league's best wing defenders. Battier defended Bryant about as tough as one could hope and it seldomly worked.
Bryant was just that good.
Battier explained his tactic of defending Bryant with a hand in his face.
"I got a lot of the acclaim for the hand-in-the-face tactic, but people misunderstood why I did that. For a guy like Kobe, I knew he would go out of his way to prove that this tactic wouldn't work on him. That was the mental game I played with Kobe, but he [still] made a lot of jumpers."
Battier later added more color to this.
“I started sticking my hand to his face, and I also knew that Kobe had a bigger ego than anybody. He would go out of his way to show that the hand in the face didn’t matter. He was finding ways to prove to me that it didn’t work.
So I was just trying to play moneyball with him. I was literally trying to keep him to his weakness, and whether he made or missed his shot, I didn’t care,” Battier said. “I literally didn’t care if anyone tried to make or miss a shot. What I cared about is where they took that shot and how they took that shot. I never tripped about anybody trying to shoot off the bounce."
The league will never see another player like Kobe and the statue is well-deserved. As someone who watched those battles between the Rockets and Lakers (and who saw Kobe in general), it's still crazy that he isn't here today.
Rest in paradise, Mamba.