Kobe Bryant retiring: His impact on St. Edward’s University basketball players

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The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd as he leaves the court following a 107-100 loss against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 3, 2016. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Amanda Gonzalez

Tonight a legend will play in his final game — and here is the impact he has left on fellow basketball players.

After 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Los Angeles Lakers forward-guard Kobe Bryant will finish a stellar career that has inspired a generation of athletes to strive for growth and greatness.

In a letter entitled “Dear Basketball,” Bryant said, “You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream / And I’ll always love you for it. / But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. / This season is all I have left to give. / My heart can take the pounding / My mind can handle the grind / But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

In 1996, Bryant chose to enter the NBA straight from high-school, where he was drafted by the Lakers. While Bryant was having a successful rookie season that was quickly leading to stardom, a lot of young kids had their eyes on him.

One of those kids was in middle-school at the time, studying the game’s details to become a better basketball player himself. Shawn Weinstein grew up watching the Lakers and played for St. Edward’s University from 2006-‘08.

“Kobe Bryant mastered the art of hard work and preparation,” Weinstein said. “He illustrated that in order to succeed, you must outwork your opponent and be more prepared.”

Bryant’s attention to preparation helped earn the Lakers win five championships. Individually, he was voted to 18 NBA All-Star Games.

He is also the only player in NBA history to reach 11,000 made field goals, 7,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists, according to Matt Moore of CBS Sports.

Now at the end of his career, the 37-year-old Bryant will retire knowing that he is considered one of the most versatile players to ever play the game.

St. Edward’s University sophomore shooting guard James Taylor attended Bryant’s third-to-the-last game, as the Houston Rockets hosted the Lakers on Sunday. In the first quarter alone, Bryant scored 15 points, while the rest of his team had a combined total of 12 points. Although the Lakers lost 130-110, Bryant landed some amazing shots and finished the night with 35 points.

That game was Bryant’s last in a Texas arena, and Taylor said he was glad to have witnessed such a great basketball player have such a great night. In fact, there’s a lot Taylor has taken from Bryant in focusing on his ongoing basketball career.

“Work ethic,” Taylor said. “He is my standard when it comes to hard work. At the start of my off-seasons, I ask myself, ‘How would Kobe approach getting better?’”

Similarly, Weinstein echoed the same admiration for Bryant’s work ethic.

“His attention to detail was remarkable, it stands out in how his moves and gestures were so similar to Michael Jordan’s,” Weinstein said. “I have applied all of these factors to my basketball journey and still incorporate them in any venture I partake in today. Ironically, one does not have to born with these traits, it truly must come from within.”

On Monday, Bryant lost his last road game 112-79 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.   

After a flight back to California, Bryant will play his final game of the season at home. 

At 16-65, the Lakers are enduring the worst season in franchise history — so this night will be all about Bryant and his glorious contributions to the Lakers over the past 20 seasons.

Tip-off is at 9:30 p.m. against the Utah Jazz. Wearing his golden yellow jersey with a No. 24 on the back, Bryant will take in all the sights and sounds of a basketball game one last time tonight.