Invoking the name of the basketball icon has long been synonymous with the act of throwing something, anything, in a precise fashion, a skill so regularly demonstrated by the longtime Los Angeles Laker during his illustrious NBA career. Sometimes the shots will be hoisted from across half court. Sometimes they’ll be a clutch three pointer. But to shout “Kobe!” is to channel the NBA legend’s finesse and charisma into a single, memorable heave.
The meme stems from players at pickup basketball games, but extended far beyond it to classrooms, cubical farms and even video game screens, where a number of his disciples posted tributes Sunday on YouTube and Reddit.
The “Kobe!” meme got an assist from comedian Dave Chappelle with a 2004 skit, to became a staple exclamation of bored students, white collar office workers, and generally anyone who wanted to turn the mundane activity of chucking trash into a heroic, MVP-level act. So of course, grenade-throwing gamers adapted the phrase into just about any game that features the act of throwing a projectile to win.
In gaming, the “Kobe!" call is synonymous with accuracy. Calling it out meant your grenade was either well-placed for maximum damage, or to add flourish after the fact. The phrase found early prominence in the 1999 game Counter-Strike, and the early Internet was filled with video compilations of Counter-Strike players yelling “Kobe!” That tradition continues today with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, still one of the most played games and one of the biggest esports scenes today.
“Saying ‘Kobe’ when lobbing a grenade gives a 73 percent chance of getting a kill,” a Rainbow 6: Siege player in South Africa said in “Chuck Norris Facts" fashion when posting a video of his lucky throw on Reddit a year ago.
The world mourned the 41-year-old’s sudden death, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday, in many of their own ways. On Reddit, players of several shooting game franchises paid their respects.
“RIP Kobe. May every long-range grenade kill honor your memory,” said user bmalones on the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds subreddit.
“My son and I did Izanami Forge and threw balls in his name,” said user Drewwbacca10977 on the Destiny subreddit, referring to one of the activities in the game Destiny 2.
Esports consultant Rod Breslau tweeted, “Kobe’s name — and only his name — will forever be immortalized in gaming by throwing the perfect 'nade.”
Of course, Bryant was also featured in a number of NBA games, starting with NBA Live 97 for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
On Sunday evening, players of the NBA 2K series gathered in the game’s online community space to pay their respects to their fallen hero.
Members of the 2K development and marketing team took to Twitter to post their own memories of working with Bryant, who has been featured throughout the games and was the cover model for the 2K10 release. When players boot up the game now, they’ll be greeted with a screen honoring his memory.
It doesn’t take a “Kobe!” call-out to know that his legacy goes beyond the real-world game he loved.