In the wake of Kobe Bryant's tragic and sudden passing, we asked a few notable NBA experts and writers from India about 'the Black Mamba' - their most memorable story of the 5-time NBA Champion, his legacy, and what made him great.
NBA.com: Most memorable Kobe Bryant moment?
Karan Madhok (NBA Experts & Contributor): That 81-point game, of course. Eighty. One. Points. By one player. In a single basketball game. In the modern era. No, I wasn't alive when Wilt Chamberlain tiptoed over minuscule mortals to score his 100. But Kobe's 81 is the most impressive single-game scoring performance I have ever known. I still remember exactly where I was when I called my friends excitedly to report the box-score.
We weren't too far away from the 90s era where many teams barely mustered around 80-something points over the game. And here was this one-man basketball-breaking machine, from the perimeter, who had every tool in his offensive arsenal to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Akshay Manwani (NBA Expert & Hindi Commentator): Him jumping on the scorer's table with his arms stretched out after the Game 7 win v Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals. I think that moment was a culmination of all the hard work that Bryant had put in over the years, his feuds with Shaq to commit to working harder were all about that moment.
Gopalakrishnan R (NBA Expert & Contributor): 60 pt farewell game: Kobe's performance in this game encapsulated his entire career. A pure, unstoppable scorer who can single-handedly carry his entire team to victory, if he chooses to do so. And what a Hollywood-esque farewell, if there ever was one. Can't think of a better way to say 'Mamba Out'.
Jonathan Rego (NBA Expert): His game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in the Overtime win against the Kings in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin for my beloved Kings at the time.
Important to remember that Kobe was just 23 at the time, and was going toe-to-toe with Shaq, who had 35 in the game.
Nakul Yadav (Creative Producer at Monk Media Network for NBA India): Game number 78 for Kobe 'Bean' Bryant in the tumultuous 2012-13 season. Lakers are locked in a race against I don't care which team, to make the Playoffs. All I know is Kobe is going to get us there. Because that's what he does right?
He's our Superman with the Lakers logo on his chest. It's the 45th minute and we are facing the pre-championship era Warriors, Kobe drives left against Harrison Barnes and goes down. I'm mad. Barnes is the culprit and I'm seething because he might have injured Kobe.
Of course, I know it's not true. But in that heated and tense moment, I'm locked in. Kobe was cooking in the fourth so they intentionally and maliciously fouled him.
This looks bad. The announcers are talking about an Achilles injury. It can't be, but it's true. The man can barely stand. He needs to make his free throws for us to have a shot to win the game.
So he does what he's always done. He fights through the pain. He comes through even in the moment of his career's most devastating injury. One more time before the sheer physical toll of his career does him in. Swish. And Swish.
Yash Matange (Content Producer, NBA.com/India): Of course, the above moments are part of my list as well but to put up another one, mine is 'the 2009 Playoff grumpy look'
I had just started watching NBA basketball again in 2008 after a gap of a few years. To see him so determined in the 2009 Playoffs to win an NBA Championship, especially after the manner in which he had lost in 2008 against the Boston Celtics. Win or loss, it didn't matter, he had the same look on his face after every game in the 2009 postseason. That stayed with me all my life.
NBA.com: What set Bryant apart, especially in the post-Jordan era?
KM (@Hoopistani): I don't think a basketball player has ever walked this Earth with the work-ethic of Kobe Bryant. The time he put into this game was legendary. I will argue that, even with all his accomplishments and his place as one of the 10 greatest players of All Time, Kobe was actually one of the greatest overachievers in sports.
He was gifted, sure: but I think we have seen many players with gifts like his over the different eras. Kobe could've been a good player like Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady, but I think what set him apart was that quest for greatness, that hunger to be Jordan or the next closest thing to him. His hard-work eventually made him as perhaps the most technically-gifted offensive player ever.
Yes, he was also fortunate with the winning environment around him, but he was as responsible for creating and sustaining that environment as anyone ever in league history.
AM (@AkshayManwani): I think his pursuit of and commitment to perfection. He studied opponents, wanted to get better with his moves, studied game film like a monk. It was all to get better. Injuries did not stop him from playing. He rebuked teammates all with the single-minded objective of wanting more. He was greedy for excellence and it's a quality that will forever separate him from a lot of his peers.
MORE: Kobe Bryant's best game against every team
Gopal (@gopal1204): His hunger, drive, obsessive work-ethic, and more importantly the unabashed, intelligent and self-aware articulation of that hunger. He never shied away from expressing his intense love for the game. He made it cool to be a basketball geek.
JR (@jonathanrego): His work ethic. I know this sounds cliched but there isn't a player / NBA official who will tell you that Kobe wasn't among the hardest workers in the NBA. He added moves and nuances to the game every season. for 20 seasons. There is a reason "Mamba Mentality" is a phrase.
MORE: Bollywood & India's biggest sports icons mourn Bryant's passing
NY (@nakul498): He was not the most physically gifted. Garry V said as much, he said it openly. His work ethic was legendary, but so was MJ's and Bird's. But his biggest legacy, that resonates with people everywhere, and sets him apart is the Mamba Mentality. It was singular, oblivious to limitations and man, was it inspirational.
Whether you were an NBA fan or regular Joe, if you live in the modern-day pop culture consumption zeitgeist, you know Mamba Mentality. And you want it.
YM (@yashmatange2694): The hunger, the work ethic, the eternal drive to win, his basketball IQ, his love and passion for the game. Just some of the many reasons he is among the greatest players ever but these are, for me, the biggest reasons why.
NBA.com: Bryant's legacy in your words?
KM: The numbers might tell you that he wasn't as great as Jordan, LeBron, Kareem, Magic, or even Duncan, Shaq, or some others. People have long argued against his inefficiencies, at the shots he missed, or the passes he passed over.
I'm at peace with those criticisms and agree with a lot of them. But Kobe to me was proof that basketball can't be rooted to numbers and maths alone. We aren't machines programmed to enjoy the game based on what makes the most statistical sense. We are emotional humans, and part of what makes us love this game so much is the inherent beauty of individual heroism, of witnessing amazing take place, of being shocked and delighted, of shaking our heads in disbelief and feeling our eyes well up with tears.
Even with the criticisms, the hard facts state that Kobe was one of the greatest winners (five championships) and greatest scorers (fourth All-Time) that the game has ever seen. But to me, his legacy will always be far, far more than that. To me, he was someone that reminded us of the human emotions, the emotions that allowed us to see the flaws in mathematics and still admire the product. He was someone that reminded us that, at the end of the day, basketball isn't mathematics at all; it's art. And Kobe was one of the greatest artists that ever lived.
AM: I think in the post-Jordan era, the NBA needed an icon to cater to a newer, younger, more global audience. It could be argued that Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan achieved more, but Bryant's appeal was much more. He was popular in the US of A, but also in China.
Younger ball players like DeMar DeRozan admitted to modeling their games on him. He was showtime when he dunked, but he was also hard-nosed and tough when it came to playoff time.
The NBA is what it is today not only because of Magic, Bird and Jordan but because of Kobe also. For sure.
Gopal: A player who inspired an entire generation- not just by his on-court accomplishments, but also by his carefully calibrated ideas and approach to life. He personally impacted every basketball fan born between late 80s till 2000, for whom he was the "face" of the NBA.
MORE: NBA teams pay tribute to Kobe Bryant
Just like LeBron is today, or Jordan was prior to Kobe. The fact that even the non-basketball community is mourning his passing shows that Kobe's legacy extended far beyond just the core hoops audience.
JR: Kobe leaves behind the legacy of someone who matured and transcended beyond basketball. He never shied from criticism, stayed away from the glamour and partying and (largely) controversies, and just kept working at the one thing he was obsessed with - basketball.
More importantly, he continued to build a legacy after basketball. He did not put his feet up and think his work was done. He felt he was just getting started.
NY: Visceral, dogged and dedicated excellence. Always.
YM: 'Mamba Mentality'. He talked about this just after his retirement but Mamba Mentality applies to anybody in any professional field. That's what his legacy will be for me.
There's of course, the amazing transition he's had from the game to fatherhood but from afar, his approach to any challenge, for me, was his legacy. Even the way he approached challenges post-retirement, as a father, there's an obsessive, passionate 'Mamba Mentality' factor to it.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.