• Benji Schwimmer

ODE TO KOBE

Before releasing my Kobe Bryant dance tribute video, I thought I would share the speech behind it. #mamba

(You - by Benji Schwimmer)



You’ve shocked the world so many times…

The championships…

Highlights…

Overcoming the lows…

Like the day you announced your retirement.

For selfish reasons I didn’t want it to end but I was so happy for you. I knew that you had found something else… Something more in your life that was going to give you the joy and acceptance you’ve always craved. For you see, I connected with you not for the accolades… but for the reasons you achieved them.

Raised in Italy. A culture shock moving back to Philadelphia …playing a sport where your father had already become a legend… Not fitting in and being born into a legacy is quite the combination… One I know too well….

Being raised by two immortals of dance The shoes impossible to fill. Staunchly religious, yet internally struggling with my sexuality… I escaped through dance.

Interviews of teammates said something similar of you. that partying made you feel like Father Time was catching up… …dulling the sword that maniacal practice could only forge. The constant feeling of being in your world but not of it labeled you an outcast. The only time I felt complete was in training. Sweat became your therapeutic salve… …as it did mine.

I started to connect the similarities…

A 17, bi-passing college to compete in the NBA A 17 year old dancer petitioning to compete against his idols… The audacity to take the winning shot before you could even legally drink one. I wanted to know what it was like to face the best in the world- Hell, you even challenged Michael Jordan to a game of one on one before ever wearing a Laker jersey. If Kobe could do it… maybe a Benji could too…

Now… I’m not saying I’m you or even close to it… But I can say that where most found inspiration through you to push themselves, - I found relate ability. When most were astounded by your extreme work ethic, - I saw the daily grind The obsessiveness made me feel like my extremes were for a special purpose. For someone who finds it hard to feel like he fits in… The guy who just wants to train, work and create non stop… I felt valid… …because “Kobe does it too”.

Even in retirement I followed you. Moments before competing in my final World Championships, I gathered my friends to watch ‘Dear Basketball’ I remember my mother, tears in her eyes, saying “ Oh my god, Benji, thats you. “ No other compliment has ever touched me more than that, Kobes. …..I tried my best to pay homage…

I waited all day at the scene of the accident… Hoping you’d shock the world again… My heart breaks for your family and all those that have been personally affected by this tragedy. I cannot begin to understand such a loss. My biggest regret was not being able to say thank you, personally. Losing you was as much a global tragedy as it was a personal one.

For selfish reasons I don’t want it to end again… Still…seeing the world’s reaction to it all brings me peace. Because despite the jealousy, the controversies and the like of the past… What remains is a legacy of profound respect and admiration… I wish in my own small way I could have something similar…

So why am making this? -Some random dancer comparing himself to THE legend, Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba… ha Sure. Why not? I’m relentless. I have the audacity to say these things because I know you did too. You wanted to be considered one of the greatest in your sport and so did I.�We used world championships to erase the disconnect from the world itself It was self-relentlessness that pushed us… not the outward kind. I didn’t need a motivator… I needed to know I was not alone.

You’ve shocked my world…

You showed me the way to get out of the mania as much as you showed me how amazing it was to thrive in it. I too have found something I love more than competing… your brave steps helped find me solace in that… and for that, you continue to inspire. I’m sad because I won’t be able to see what next steps you were going to take in your incredible journey.... … and to find my muse in you once again….

But for what its worth, I promise to continue to give that relate ability to the little Kobe’s and Benji’s in my small corner of the world… Those who need a space where they can be maniacal and pushed to find their own paths of greatness. … to help them find their MUSE, the way you became mine.

And for that, I thank you, Mamba.

“ Every 8 count reminds me of you. For every youngn’ I coach, I’ll think of number 2. The 24 reminds me of the hours we must spend Creating a legacy, limits without end. “

….let’s shock the world…



© 2020 Benji Schwimmer - Los Angeles, CA, USA | New York, NY, USA