For the Love of Kobe

In the window of Dr. Eric Mee’s dental office on State Street in Redlands, a sign reads: “Change the Logo! #Mamba Mentality.”

It’s a tribute to Kobe Bryant and a reminder of his inspirational philosophy to challenge yourself to work and reach harder to be your  very best.

As Dr. Mee’s patients walk toward the door, they slow down and take a minute to look at it.  

Acknowledging Bryant’s passing with large and small acknowledgments like this sign can be seen throughout cities throughout the world.

The tremendous outpouring is all that can be done as a response to  the shattering news. From kids writing his name and jersey numbers on their athletic shoes to people creating artwork and millions of messages posted online are what people can do to offer their personal support and messages as they mutually reflect on what Kobe Bryant has meant to them as they process the tragic news.  

Growing up, Mee watched football with his father — they’d watch Joe Montana and the 49ers — but he credits Kobe for changing his sports habits.

“I became a Laker fan because of Kobe,” Mee said.  “Kobe made me a basketball fan, and now the NBA is my favorite sport to watch to this day.

“For my era, he’s Michael Jordan. I was a little young, still, when Jordan was in his prime. So I feel that Kobe was my Michael Jordan at that age for me — when athletes were heroes to you. Kobe has been my favorite athlete, ever. And I’m a sports guy, I watch everyone. But basketball is my favorite sport and the Lakers are my favorite team.”

For baby boomers, people recalled where they were when JFK was shot. And now you hear people sharing where they were when they heard the very shocking and unexpected news that Kobe Bryant was dead. 

“I was in Big Bear with my family when I heard,” shared Mee. “I got an alert on my phone, and I spent the rest of the day watching the news. It was rough, I was a mess.”

He’d planned to go to the Lakers-Clippers game, then heard it was postponed but wants to go to the Lakers-Trailblazers game on Friday and see the large memorial outside of the “House that Kobe built,” at Staples Center. 

For Shannay Johnson, a dental assistant at the practice, she was on her way to a cemetery in Culver City when she heard the news.  

“My youngest brother passed away from cancer seven years ago. My father texted me “Kobe”; I didn’t know what he meant and got on Google,” Johnson said.

“That night I went to the Staples Center before I went home — I now live in Loma Linda — the energy there was shocking,  not just from adults, but children, too. We all felt like we lost someone. Knowing all the hurt Kobe’s family will go through, the memories they won’t create, feeling that Gigi was cheated out of her life — I really feel that pain. But to see all the fans coming together, showing their love and support that Sunday night was unreal. It was beautiful to see that LA can come together and  celebrate a legacy.”  

Many of those closest to Bryant have commented how his family became the center of his life and he shared the great joy and challenges of fatherhood.  It is what has been called the second phase of his life that also endeared him to so many, even those who weren’t necessarily basketball fans.

Mee, as a father of young children himself could relate to the joy on Kobe’s face when he looked at his children. 

“When I tell my kids about Kobe, I want them to know how great he was, how hard he worked, and how much he loved his family,” he said. “I don’t know the man, and I’ve been asking myself the last couple of days why am I so upset by this. As a kid he was my hero, everybody wanted to be like him.

“But I think now, as a father the idea of his family losing him and his daughter, maybe it hits me more because I’m a father myself. I know that basketball was important to him and a huge part of his life — that’s why everybody knows him. But I would guarantee now that he’d give it all up for another day with his family.”

For Johnson who played basketball a bit in high school as a shooting guard, Bryant was one of her inspirations,  

“Just his work ethic, the amount of time he spent working; not just in games but outside of the game. The work he put into the craft — he was just so determined to be one of the best. I like the fact he never saw a failure as a failure, but instead an opportunity to conquer, to get better. It was always ‘the challenge,’ and he was always up to the challenge.” 

She said while she didn’t go far in her basketball life, she learned much.

“I played on the JV, and in my senior year, I stayed a part of the team by doing things like keeping score. I knew I wasn’t going long-term with the game but I did enjoy the relationships I got to have with the girls I played with, and the structure from being on a team. It was very rewarding. And Kobe, being a leader that he was, he was a great example for everyone.”