11:53am. January 27, 2020.

I woke up with three text messages on my phone. I honestly thought that these messages were pahabol birthday greetings since I just celebrated my 23rd birthday the day before. Sadly, they weren’t.

“…condolence…”

That was the first word I saw. My initial thought was “shit bakit?” It was a text message from my cousin so, it got my heart racing.

I then started to rub my eyes and decided to read it entirely. It said: “Juro condolence!” along with a sad face emoji, numbers 2 and 4, and a snake emoji at the end. It didn’t make any sense.

I immediately checked the other text messages I received. On top of my cousin’s notification was a message from my Tita in Canada. “Juro, I hear[d] abt Kobe. I’m still in shock! My heart goes out to you in your time of sorrow. I know how much he meant to you. RIP Kobe”

No way. Can’t be.

The last text message that I read came from a friend and that’s when it all started to sink in. “Omg kobe’s dead!!!!!”

Once I turned on the Wi-Fi, notifications from my social media accounts started to flood my phone. With the number of messages I got from my friends and relatives, it felt like it was my birthday all over again. Heck, Kobe and I aren’t even blood related and yet people checked-up on me. They knew how much Kobe’s game had an impact on my life.

I started playing basketball when I was six years old because my dad and lolo were hoop junkies. They taught me the basics (and the fun side) of the game, but my point of view changed after watching Kobe in the 2004 NBA Finals.

I was obsessed with reaching the pinnacle of basketball by trying to copy his shooting form, his fadeaway shot (ah yes, even the kick), his mannerisms (example: the jersey biting), and his approach to the game. He became my basketball idol, my childhood hero.

But of course, my life was not the only one affected by Kobe. I’ve seen friends on Facebook pay tribute to the late “Black Mamba” by sharing various photos and videos about Kobe. His imprint on the game was so huge that even non-Kobe fans expressed their sadness through social media.

Meanwhile, in the National Basketball Association (NBA), various teams who had scheduled games that day, purposely committed 8-second/24-second violations to commemorate the 41-year old. Madison Square Garden, on the other hand, had a moment of silence to remember the Laker great.

Athletes from different sports also had their own tributes to Kobe – from Neymar celebrating his goal by putting up the numbers two and four on his hands to Nick Kyrgios entering his 2020 Australian Open match against Rafael Nadal wearing a Kobe jersey.

Despite being a cocky basketball player, a showboat, a selfish teammate, and an “asshole” (per Rajon Rondo’s words), it was really heartwarming to see people shower him with different recognition and appreciation posts. I have never seen anything like this before.

He has definitely touched a lot of people during his life, but what I love about his legacy is that even his untimely death won’t hinder him from inspiring more people. He just started his Mamba Academy recently and I expect that his wife, Vanessa Bryant, other family members, and various colleagues to work together and continue this wonderful program he started. I also expect more people to support women’s basketball (R.I.P to Gigi Bryant as well! * sobs *) just as Kobe did when he was alive. Last but not the least, his #MambaMentality. The work ethic, the passion, and the drive to achieve something special – whether it’s basketball related or not – will forever be etched in every person’s heart.

So if ever you feel depressed or lonely about Vino’s passing, just try to remember and cherish all the good memories that he has left us. Turn those tears of sorrow into tears of happiness.

1997 Slam Dunk Contest.

2000-2002 Three straight NBA titles.

2009-2010 Back-to-back NBA championships and MVPs.

Two Olympic gold medals.

Multiple All-Star games and MVPs.

Numerous game-winners.

Scoring titles.

81 point-game.

60 points in his farewell game.

… and for sure you’ll remember many many more.

Thank you, Kobe. #MambaOut