Kobe Bryant passing away brought about some incredible stories about his impact both on and off the court. The Los Angeles Lakers legend was notoriously competitive. Yet, plenty of former teammates, friends and even foes have spoken about his unparalleled impact as a mentor, especially after his playing career ended.
Tarik Black had a chance to speak to his former teammate just a week before his death, and in typical Kobe Bryant fashion, he left an unbelievable impact with his words.
Kobe Bryant and Tarik Black were teammates for two years
By the time Tarik Black joined the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had just come back from a devastating Achilles injury. Ultimately, the big man didn’t get to play alongside Bryant in his prime. Yet, the 23-year-old managed to learn quite a bit from the aging Lakers legend.
Black arrived in LA in the middle of the 2014-15 season. He started 27 games and averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Kobe worked his way back from his torn Achilles to suit up in 35 games. Though his shooting percentage dropped to a career-low 37.3, he still averaged 22.3 points and led the team in assists (5.6 per game).
The Black Mamba played just one more year before retiring. And while he looked nothing like he did in his prime, Kobe still saved his best for last. In his final game, the five-time NBA champion dropped 60 points on 50 shots against the Utah Jazz. That unforgettable performance still stands out in Tarik Black’s mind years later.
Black reunited with Bryant a week before his death
Kobe Bryant’s tragic death shocked not only the NBA community but the world as a whole. A true global icon with unbelievable star powers, his sudden passing truly ranked as one of the most shocking and heartbreaking stories in recent history. For Tarik Black, losing his former teammate particularly stung since he had just seen him a week before.
According to Matt Tait of KU Sports, Black suffered an injury while playing overseas and returned to LA earlier than usual. For the first time since they played on the same team, Bryant and Black got a chance to reconnect.
“I actually got a chance to thank him for what he meant for my life,” Black said. “And he just kept saying, ‘I’m proud of you.’ So it rocked me to my core when I heard about his passing.”
Years ago, it would have been difficult for Black to imagine those words. And considering his own previous feelings about Bryant, the powerful exchange right before his death carried an even deeper meaning.
“This is the thing that’s tough to admit,” Black said. “But I didn’t really like Kobe growing up. He seemed cocky, arrogant. But that’s a real testament to him as a man, that he could change my opinion of him like that. I love him now. And I’ll appreciate him and everything he did for me for the rest of my life.”
Kobe left behind an incredible legacy
Stories like that demonstrate Kobe Bryant’s unparalleled power as a mentor and role model. Sure, he wasn’t always the best teammate. He earned plenty of hate throughout his career for playing selfishly. But ultimately, as we’ve learned from stories like Tarik Black’s, the Lakers icon had a heart of gold and the desire to inspire everyone to achieve their dreams.
It’s difficult to imagine that Bryant won’t be able to watch his daughter Gigi play in the WNBA, as she also sadly lost her life. And it’s even tougher to imagine his wife and other children continuing on without their husband and father. Yet, if there’s anything we can take away from Kobe Bryant’s legacy, it’s that we should never be afraid to work hard and dream big.
That’s the Mamba Mentality.