Kobe Bryant was immortal.

I heard the news in passing coming out of a basketball game, thinking they were talking about LeBron’s latest achievement in passing him on the all-time scoring list. I instantly thought about how I could’ve played harder, shot better, drove to the basket more during the game I’d just played. I got in my car and saw a text that read “Did you hear about Kobe?”

My heart sank into my stomach. I fought back pain for someone I had never met. I had a thirty-minute drive home, but all I wanted to do was curl up and cry. I woke up this morning feeling the same way—maybe even worse—and refused to get out of bed. But, as I rolled over to permanently mute my alarm, I caught a taste of the Mamba Mentality: if I didn’t wake up right then, I wouldn’t find my passion.

Kobe Bryant, in my mind and in the mind of so many others of my generation, was immortal. Not only was he a deadly assassin on the court, but he thrived off it, as well. The same mentality that propelled him in sports drove him to success in art, finance, and parenthood. There are plenty of essays outlining his achievements post-NBA, from investing and marketing to film producing. But, the most impressive to me was his love for his family. Anyone could see how much he loved his daughters, courtside or otherwise. He was raising them to be just as great as, if not greater than, himself. Gianna was an immortal in the making. She was taken before she could prove that. But Kobe had proven it; he had shown what concentrated tenacity and passion can do..and created a legend in the process. That’s what makes his death so devastating. Legends never die, but this one did.

His passion for basketball was most admirable. To have a fire inside you that pushes you to accomplish as much as Kobe did is something that most of us will never have. To find that passion and acknowledge its power over you is a gift. Kobe treasured that gift. From Kobe’s letter “Dear Basketball”:

I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.
And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.
I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

I can only hope that I find something that I love so much that I will give my heart, my life, my all to as much as Kobe gave to basketball.

Thank you, Kobe, for your inspiration, your passion, and your all. The only true immortality comes from being remembered. And in that you are immortal.