I remember seeing this photo when I was getting free ESPN The Magazine sent to my college dorm.
“Kobe watches whichever SportsCenter he can”
The 21-year-old-me thought, “Wow here’s the best basketball player in the world at Wal-Mart at 2 AM because he has to get diapers for his newborn daughter, and he watches SportsCenter too. He’s just like me only that I don’t have a daughter, and I’m not the best basketball player in the world.”
A week later or so, he was accused of rape.
In times of celebrity deaths, the bad come with the good. Many question why we even care so about the rich and famous. But that’s one of the few common threads that complete strangers can share.
“Hey did you see that crazy 360 dunk Kobe pulled last night?”
My infatuation with Kobe Bryant relied on many things. He was the player most comparable to Michael Jordan, and he came into the NBA while Jordan still played. Bryant himself said he mimicked some of Jordan’s moves — adding his own style and flare, of course.
In fact, Kobe was the definition of style and flare. Los Angeles fit him like a glove. Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington didn’t come to the Staples Center to watch a basketball game; they, like many others, came to watch Kobe play basketball.
As charismatic as he was on court, behind the scenes (or so I’ve read) his obsession with winning rendered him a jerk and a selfish player. He was almost Machiavellian to a fault.
He was also multi-lingual (Italian, Spanish, and recently showed off his Slovenian to trash talk Luka Doncic), and compared to other NBA players, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But his popularity resonated through all demographics. Not only was Kobe a league MVP and NBA Finals MVP, but he won an Oscar for best animated short. He was a winner, and I enjoyed watching him play.
Any pure basketball fan will tell you Kobe was a force of nature, and his influence on the NBA and today’s players are immeasurable. Being a fan of one team shouldn’t preclude you from appreciating greatness. Kobe Bryant’s death today was tragic and the touching tributes are a somber reminder of what the league has lost but also serves as a reminder how greatness and a force of nature like Kobe can bring all walks of life together.
This was the pregame moment of silence from the AT&T Center with both teams dribbling out the shot clock to begin the game. Becky Hammon and Tim Duncan among the many crying: pic.twitter.com/d0MWPobPMf— Evan Closky (@EvanClosky) January 26, 2020
Life is short and precious. I don’t have to tell you that. If you enjoyed watching Kobe Bryant play or respected how much of an impact he had on the game of basketball, you’re among friends in mourning.