Though the COVID-19 pandemic and death of George Floyd has dominated headlines for the first half of the year, the world still hasn’t forgotten Kobe Bryant. The tragic death of the Los Angeles Lakers legend on Jan. 26 is still felt to this day, and the 20th BET Awards bid farewell to the “Black Mamba” during its June 28 broadcast. Following the In Memoriam segment, which ended on a shot of the 5-time NBA champion, Lil Wayne paid his final respects to his friend and hero with a performance of his 2009 track, “Kobe Bryant.” However, Wayne updated the lyrics for 2020, adding the line, “Heart goes out to Vanessa [Bryant] & the whole black mamba family”
“Kobe doin’ work / 2-4 on my shirt / He the greatest on the court / And I’m the greatest on the verse / Going for the fourth ring like it was his first / Gotta get the bling /Do it for Kareem /Two-four so nice, my flow so mean / Catch me at the game sitting next to [NBA superfan James] Goldstein / Kobe Bryant Nikes, purple gold strings / Kobe in the game dunkin’ on the whole team.”
Released a decade ago on Wayne’s Tear Drop Tune 2 mixtape, Kobe shared his thoughts on this eponymous ode during a 2019 episode of The Corp, Alex Rodriguez and Barstool Sports’ Big Cat’s podcast. “After the Denver series, [Wayne] called me,” said Kobe, referencing the 2009 Western Conference Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, per Genius. “He was like, ‘Man, that performance just motivated the hell out of me.’ I think it was like game six.”
“[Wayne] was like,’ I’ ma do a song. Is it okay, can I do a song? ‘” said Kobe, who dropped 35 points and had 10 assists during the game. “I was like, alright, cool. I just thought he was bs-ing or whatever. Before the Celtics series, he sends me the song, and I was like, ‘Oh, you were serious.’ Okay, that’s awesome.” After the track was released, Kobe went on to win the 2009 NBA Finals, giving him his fifth and final Championship Ring. He would celebrate alongside Lil Wayne and the NBA championship trophy in a photoshoot.
Since his unexpected and tragic death in January, numerous awards shows have honored Kobe. The 2020 Grammy Awards – which took place the same day as the fatal helicopter crash – turned into a makeshift memorial to Kobe. The show opened up with Lizzo dedicating the night to Kobe. During host Alicia Keys’ opening monologue, she joined Boyz II Men for a performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Kobe was also celebrated by Run-DMC, who held up his jersey after the did “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith. Lil Nas X included a vintage Kobe jersey in the set of his “Old Town Road” performance, and the night’s planned celebration to the late Nipsey Hussle was changed to also include Kobe.
Since then, practically every award show the 92nd Academy Awards, the NBA All-Star Game, the 2020 ESPYs – has paid their respects to Kobe, in one way or another. In April, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Kobe would be inducted posthumously alongside Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Tamika Catchings. “It’s an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we’re extremely proud of him,” Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow and mother of his children, said after the Hall of Fame announcement. “Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate. But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career, and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here.”