“I want to be the best, simple and plain.” – Kobe Bryant

No words inspired me, and perhaps an entire generation, more than these.

This isn’t an article commemorating the countless awards and accolades of one of the greatest athletes to walk this earth, it’s a story about the impact a man had on a young boy he was never destined to meet, and a metaphor for the impact that man had on an entire generation.

I was taught the meaning of hard work by my parents, and Kobe Bryant. I learned that winning is everything and that if you truly want something, you have to be willing to sacrifice everything for it.

I fell in love with basketball around the age of thirteen and played fervently until I was eighteen. Those years of my life aligned perfectly with Kobe’s second run of championships. Nothing drove me to compete more than watching him play.

My brothers and I would pound the hardwood for countless hours, skipping class, skipping lunch, and staying late after practice just to try to mimic the Mamba’s moves from the night before.

Watching him take the ball in his hands, with the game on the line, and emerge victorious over and over again taught me that life operates the exact same way. He showed me what it’s like to fight, to sacrifice sleep, good times, and short-lived pleasures in favor of study, practice and ultimately, greatness.

While I knew my career wouldn’t include basketball once I went off to university, I took the Mamba Mentality with me, approaching entrepreneurial projects with an unwavering desire to win.

And I, like him, took my losses.

But because of my role model, I knew to pick myself back up because there would always be another day, another game, and another opportunity to let my greatness shine.

It was perhaps just as impactful to watch the way Kobe would handle a win. Sure, he would celebrate after a monumental victory or a nail-biting game-winner, but the revelries were always kept short.

He knew that the best thing to do after both a win and a loss was to get back in the gym and work harder, to practice and implement the new things he’d learned, and to study himself and the performances of others to become an expert in every aspect of the game he was playing.

He knew more, worked more, fought more, loved more, and played more than anyone. He is a shining example of what it looks like to stand for what you believe in.

Kobe Bryant gave so much to the game of basketball, and to the world, and his early passing will go down as one of the biggest tragedies in sports history.

This month has been very sad, wrought with a lot of tears and heavy sighs.

I’m not angry, or frustrated, or any other emotion which stems from fear. I’m simply very sad, which comes from a place of love.

Many of us have been sad throughout this month, but we should also remember to be grateful because it means we truly loved someone.

Someone who stood for our greatness night after night by offering us the opportunity to witness his own. We’re lucky to be so sad because the sadness wouldn’t exist without the many years of hard-earned inspiration and joy that he brought into our lives.

Apr 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 110-102. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Happiness and sadness are not enemies, but two sides of the same coin. They fight back to back on the side of love in the battle against fear.

Kobe Bryant was a shining example of what it looks like to conquer one’s fear.

I, like so many others, was touched, moved, and inspired by his performance on a consistent basis, and by his unwavering commitment to being the best.

And so I say to the greatest ever, for the first time, it’s time for you to take a rest.

You’ll be forever loved and always missed.

Thank you for everything.