What Kobe Meant To Me

 

When Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA, I felt like I had lost him.

Then, Sunday happened.

It’s an odd feeling, idolizing and cherishing another human, one that you have no personal relationship with.

And I know we’re only supposed to idolize God. But when Kobe took the basketball court, I couldn’t help it.

He meant the world to me.

He made me fall in love with the sport. He provided some of the happiest moments of my life.

I grew up as a basketball player in Southern California. I remember one time I had a game at Westchester High School. My team played, and won, and then we hung around the gym to see the next game.

I walked into the lobby when all of a sudden, I heard a roar from inside the gym.

Did someone get dunked on???

Nope. Turns out, as I was walking into the lobby on one side of the gym, Kobe was walking into the gym on the other side of the lobby.

The game was going on, but nobody cared. Kobe was here.

KOBE.

At halftime, fans swarmed his section. And of course, he knew it was coming. He smiled and took pictures and did everything anyone asked of him, including me.

Camera phones had just come out at this point, and my dad had one. I asked Kobe could I get a photo and he said yes. I then handed my dad’s phone to the nearest stranger to take the photo.

Kobe then extended his hand and pulled me up on the bleachers next to him. What a moment.

The stranger taking the photo was struggling to operate the camera – again, camera phones had just become a thing. And as Kobe stood there with his arm around me, waiting for the photo to be taken, his commentary was, “Man, you gotta get it together with that phone.”

Finally, the stranger snapped the photo, I said thank you to Kobe, and I left.

A 20-second encounter nearly 20 years ago that I remember like yesterday. That’s the impact Kobe had on my life.

All of his points, all of his game-winners, all of his dunks…none of it means anything in comparison to that moment.

He didn’t do anything special. But he acknowledged me. He pulled me up and realized that this meant something to me.

And I appreciated that.

His death is gut-wrenching. It’s the saddest moment in my life outside of things that have occurred with my family and friends.

I think many folks share this same sentiment.

When you add in the fact that his daughter was with him in the crash, it becomes difficult not to ask God, “WHY?”

But if there is one thing that I have learned in tragedy, it’s that everything isn’t meant for us to understand. We have our plan and God has His plan.

His plan is always the right plan.

That’s the only way to explain it.

We lost a man that changed the persona of our city and our favorite sports team for decades to come. He gave us excitement, he gave us parades, he gave us memories.

Now, he’s gone. But all of those memories live on.

What else will live on is his family: his wife and three daughters. And the focus has to become praying for them, as well as the family and friends of the others lost in the crash.

I can’t fathom how Kobe’s family will be able to move on from this, but the one thing I do know is God.

God has the answer.

Kobe made my life better, just like he did for millions of others.

He’s playing ball with God now.

R.I.P. Kobe and Gianna Bryant.