An Icon Forever
Join Date: Jun 2006
Article Kobe Bryant wrote in Dime Magazine
This is an article Kobe wrote I believe before the 2005-2006 season started. I'm not sure if many people here have read it or not.
Hunger defines me. I've always been hungry, but now my appetite has risen to a new level. My will is greater than ever. The motivation to succeed runs through me like blood. In this 10th year, my 10th season as an NBA player, the mountain I once climbed to reach the top looms in front of me again. I realize how hard it will be to climb it, how much I will have to sacrifice and overcome to get to the top again, how many people have told me I can't do it. But I savor that challenge. Feed off of it. That challenge helps give me purpose and inspiration. It helps me define life.
At the beginning of this season there was a question floating around in my mind. What is my purpose? On one level I understood the reasons for why I do what I do, but on another level I felt an even greater commitment tugging at my soul. I'm a ballplayer, a teammate. A leader. But is that it? When I look back at my rookie season, I realize that all of the faces that once surrounded me are gone. I was a kid back then, eager to please, eager to find my place in a world that seemed familiar but different. The game was my refuge. I'd been going to it ever since I was six years old, in Italy, playing alone on courts thousands of miles away from kids who shared my same love. In a way, my dedication to basketball defined me. But that definition has grown. The struggles I've encountered over the last few years have made me realize just how much more there is for me to accomplish. I've begun a new phase of my life; I've opened new doors. And with new doors comes a whole new world of challenges.
In my life I have won and accomplished much. I own three NBA championship rings. I've had plenty of endorsement deals and made a lot of money from them. But still, I feel as if I have yet to fulfill the blessing that God has given me in my ability to play this game. I feel as if there is so much more to do, on the court and off it.
I don't know if this is how I am supposed to feel. Did MJ, Magic and the others feel the same way? In our society it seems like athletes are expected to care about winning the game, pleasing the crowd, and signing deals. Period. But am I supposed to obsess myself with winning only to win, retire and wonder if all my sacrifices were worth it? Is it OK for me to sacrifice time away from my children, time watching them grow up, missing Easter, Christmas and other special moments, to win a ring?
What I have come to learn is that my desire to win, the will to pursue my goals with the highest level of intensity and passion, defines me. But I have been careful to keep my motivation pure. The distractions that come with winning, the idea of playing for the money or playing for the fame and prestige — I've watched all of these things consume other players. My thirst for domination is fed only by the game. I refuse to get distracted by outside forces.
This is a new book in my career. Volume 1 has already been written. Everything that I accomplished before is behind me: not forgotten, but placed on the shelf. My past success only serves as a measuring stick for my peers. A whole new crop of players has emerged since I came into the League. All of them want the honor of holding the title of "best all-around player". But I feel as if that quest is behind me now and a new one has taken its place. I am an underdog. A challenge was issued to me by everyone who said I would never succeed again, that I would never win another ring or enjoy another parade. I accepted their challenge. I accepted the doubt of every one who spoke of my downfall and used their words as fuel. I have a franchise to resurrect, a city of fans to uplift.
That mountain, the one that I climbed once and now face again, is huge. I'm looking up at it again. And because I know how hard it was to climb, I sometimes feel drained because I know how difficult it will be to conquer. It's much harder to go from top to bottom to the top again than it is to simply go from the bottom to the top. But desire is the ultimate fuel. Hunger changes any situation. My past experience gives me knowledge that backs up my will. I know what must be done. My team is sometimes unsure because my teammates have never climbed this mountain before.
At times it's frustrating and it tries my patience, but in the beginning years of my career my teammates were patient with me and trusted in the fact that I would figure everything out, so now I must return that favor to this generation of Lakers. This is our challenge, our mountain, and these are my brothers. I must guide them to the point we all want to get to. No matter what.
I have been learning about the ambition inside me since I was a kid. It was there during the hours I would spend on a playground in Italy and a group of my friends would come to me and tell me I would never be an NBA player. It was there during all the time I would practice alone, imitating the moves I'd seen on television and creating new ones to go with them. It was there when nothing else was there, and I learned to incorporate it with the game, to wrap myself in the game and seek my future within it. Whenever someone would say what my Italian friends had said, whenever anyone told me what I couldn't do, I would grab hold of that feeling inside me and realize that it was there for a reason. I have always had a purpose, a need to succeed. People who try to discourage me only add fuel to a fire that has always burned. Every phase of my life has brought me new risks and new rewards; in many ways I have always been the underdog. And through it all, through every struggle, the game has always been there. It has never left me alone.
I love the game. I really do. As a kid, when things were bad for me at school or at home, I would go to the park and envision the dream. You've probably had that same one: I'd be playing for the Lakers, winning championships and hitting the game winning shots. I'd listen to the crowd roar when I put the dagger in the other team's heart, and on the road I'd hear the silence of other teams' arenas. I've actually done these things in my career. But I had done them before, because in my mind and in my heart it felt so real to me. So when I was there I had been there before.
"I take it to the other team on both ends of the floor. I take pride in being able to do that. I HATE being scored on, even by players who some say are 'un-guardable.'"
What thrills me most about the game is the purity of it and the chance to master it. The process, the work, the beauty of it has always inspired me. I remember when I was 15 years old and wanted to be famous and be on TV. That desire didn't motivate me to play or overshadow the essence of the game, but like any kid I thought being a celebrity would be cool.
As I've gotten older and actually become famous I realize that it's not what I thought it would be. But this is a good thing. Because it means that, in my heart, I never played the game for "spotlight" reasons. I played because I loved it. I played because it meant more to me than even I knew. When I needed someone to lean on, a place to vent, a place to celebrate or a place to cry, the game became all of these things for me. And because the game has given me so much I know that I must give it the respect it deserves. I must work hard to master it, to show it my appreciation for all it has done for me as a person, as a man. That's the reason I'm able to play under severe pressure or stress. The game has actually helped me cope with it. It has helped me win. Not in terms of the points scored, but in terms of the struggles that I have overcome. More and more I feel like this is the reason I train so hard, why I push myself past every limit. The more obstacles that are placed between me and my goals, the hungrier I become.
Desire is a double-edged sword. It gives you strength; it gives you motivation and focus. But occasionally, because your ambition is so great, you wonder what will happen if your goals are not fulfilled. My biggest fear is not winning another title. But fear is a great motivator. I'm determined to lead this organization back to the top. The people who once celebrated me are the same people who doubt me now. They say that because I don't have Shaq that I can't win, that it's over. The only thing I truly worry about is that my drive and my will are sometimes too much for my teammates to handle. Do I expect too much from them? How can I elevate them to play with my same passion every night?