Richard Sherman, L.A. native and Kobe Bryant fan, got close to Bryant late in his life. It’s clear that Bryant’s legacy—playing without regard to pain, seeking greatness in a chosen field, then trying to be better in an athlete’s second life than the first—will rule Sherman as a football player and beyond. In a quiet moment late in Super Bowl week, Sherman reflected on Bryant’s impact on him, starting with laying on the field as a Seahawk in November 2017, knowing he’d torn his Achilles.
“Honestly, laying there, knowing it was torn, Kobe was the first thing that went through my mind. He tore his Achilles [in 2013] and knew his team needed him, and he still shot a free throw after the injury. I was like, I gotta find a way to get up and walk it off. And [Seahawks safety] Kam Chancellor’s like, ‘Get up! Get up!’ So I got up. I could feel my foot just fall. I couldn’t pull it back up. I couldn’t get it to pull back up so it was just kind of dragging on the ground. I knew it was totally ruptured but man, Kobe walked it off so I gotta walk it off.
“He was my mentor. He . . . I don’t like saying ‘was.’ Is, is. Guess I gotta say ‘was’ now. Hmmmm.”
[Pause to collect himself.]
“He was . . . he was the reason my mentality was the way it was. His mentality, his mindset and the way he pushed me and the way he pushed himself was the reason that I pushed through so much in the first place. You have to be able to control your body. Your mind has to be able to overcome any ailments that your body can have outside of the instability of muscle and tears and ligaments. You can’t physiologically overcome that but if I’m saying my Achilles is in so much pain I can barely walk every day, but in my mind I can still walk and my body can still push off and I can still function the way it normally functions, then I should be able to play. That’s the mentality that I got from him. No matter what, you cannot accept no. You cannot accept no. You cannot accept loss for an answer. And so I didn’t, until I couldn’t. Without Kobe’s influence, I probably would’ve went off on a cart, honestly.
“It taught me no matter how great you are, now you want to be the greatest to ever play your sport. You want to put everything you can into it: blood, sweat and tears. Be obsessive over it to the point where’s it’s odd and you’re an oddball. People look at you like, Man, you take it too seriously. Then, once you’re done, you want to be so great in your second life that they look at what you did in sports as secondary. That’s what I got out of it and that’s what I got out of his career and what he was starting to do outside of basketball. That’s what I’ll try to do whenever I’m done with football. . . . Whatever it is. Whatever it is, you have to be the greatest at it. And that really . . . the mentality that you take from sports, the competitiveness, the drive, the consistent work ethic, should apply to everywhere you go. It should apply to being a father. It should apply to being a commentator or a journalist. I have no idea. I’ve got some options but me and the wife are going to sit down and talk about it in a couple years. Hopefully, God willing, I stay healthy and can play that long.
On why Bryant’s death hit so many so hard . . .
“There are certain pillars in life and certain icons . . . such a common, everyday theme in your life that when they disappear, I think subconsciously it’s a greater loss than people you know. It’s like Tom Brady—if something happened to Tom. Or like when Muhammad Ali was in his prime and after he had retired, something had happened to him then. Certain people that give you a comfort of being there even there you don’t know them. Sometimes you don’t even think about them. But you just know they’re there and it’s in your life and it’s foundational: This guy’s gonna be there. Kobe, Jordan. They’re gonna talk about Jeter. They’re gonna talk about Muhammad Ali. Certain greats in these sports you almost think are invincible. Same with Kobe. When they show their mortality, it kind of gives everybody a more than a wake-up call. It’s like an earthshake. And he’s shaking the world.”