It is still unreal that you are gone. Even though I never met you, I felt like I knew you. It doesn’t make sense that you were taken away from your family and us so suddenly. You are an icon to the world, and it affected us all very hard. You seemed immortal to everyone in the sports world. You impacted us all with everything that you did, whether that be in sport or outside of the sports realm. It hurts us all that you aren’t here to teach us new things and to inspire the upcoming generation. A couple of weeks have passed, and it still doesn’t feel real that you are gone.
I started playing when I was 4 years old in Mission, Texas, and have been playing for 23 years now. I have always loved the sport and was the first one to play in my family. I would watch soccer before I started playing and I think that is why my parents signed me up to play soccer. There are so many athletes that inspire me, but my love for the game started when I saw Ronaldinho play. Ronaldinho was the first person that made me love the game and became my role model in soccer. The way he played and ran, he made soccer seem like so much fun. Ronaldinho’s style of play was beautiful. Even though Ronaldinho was the first player I looked up to, as I grew up, my favorite player became Cristiano Ronaldo. I think he might be the most comparable to you, Kobe. You were both extremely talented athletes and the drive and work ethic is what took you guys over the top. Both of you never stopped working, no matter what time it was. Any weakness that you guys had, you would work on it and make it a strength. Both you and Cristiano became GOATs in your respective sports, not because of pure talent but because of your work ethic and drive towards being great. That is why both of you became my biggest role models. I knew that to be my very best, I had to outwork everyone. You both made me strive for greatness.
I have had many struggles throughout my career. At times, these struggles seemed like they were gonna break me, but I could not let that happen. The beginning of my professional career was probably the toughest time that I have had to endure. During my first 3 years as a pro, I hardly ever played and experienced many injuries. Growing up, this never happened to me. I almost never had serious injuries and I played all the time -- like every minute of every game. So, after hardly playing during my first three years as a pro, it hit me extremely hard.
My third year as a pro was when my mentality changed. That year I was on loan with the Oklahoma City Energy from Sporting Kansas City, and in May, I hurt my MCL. Off the field, I was going through another struggle with my personal life. So that is when everything changed for me. I had to go to physical therapy every day and spent most of my days there. I was working out every day and lived in the gym not just so that I could be healthy, but also to get stronger and better. I think that’s the biggest similarity to you, Kobe, because hurt or not, you were always in the gym.
Mentality is very important to me, because without a strong mentality, a professional career will break you. You have to be stronger than other players, and you have to be able to take criticism from within the team and from outside the team. As for, Mamba Mentality, the biggest thing to me is the work ethic that comes with this mentality and the fact that you didn’t care about what people thought and also had short-term memory to move on from the negatives. I think these two things are what made you into one of the greatest to play the game, and hopefully it can help me too.
Kobe, I just wanted to write you this letter to you because as I matured, you became a bigger inspiration to me. I wasn’t a fan because you played for a team I didn’t like, but as I got older, I realized and appreciated your grind to be the best. You worked hard and trained throughout every hour of the day to get better and I hope to do a percentage of what you've done. I’m still very saddened that you have passed but your spirit, your legacy, and your mentality will live FOREVER!! You are one of the greatest and I/we will miss you every day.
Thank you Kobe,
- Mikey Lopez