There’s a basketball game today in the Smoothie King Center featuring the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics, but I, like countless of others, will be thinking about the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant.
A helicopter carrying nine people, including Bryant and Gianna, his daughter, crashed in Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board this morning.
Just horrible, horrible news and all thoughts and prayers go to all the families of the deceased.
I was fortunate enough to have watched Kobe’s entire 20-year career and the highlights were countless, of course. The 81-point game, the five championships, all the game-winners and dunks were great, but I was most infatuated with his will to win. He played with such passion that I feel we haven’t witnessed since Michael Jordan. However, my favorite Kobe memory actually came away from the basketball action.
I attended a Hornets-Lakers game back in November 2004. Kobe scored 31 points in leading the Lakers to a win, but he did something very special for my former best friend before tip-off. As he was on his way back to the locker room, he acknowledged only a few of the throng of fans surrounding the tunnel. Smartly, my friend decided to call out to him in his native Italian tongue. Bryant stopped, smiled, and came as close as he could to my friend in the stands.
They only spent a couple of minutes at most conversing — talking about where each had lived in Italy and what they missed most about the country, but I had never seen my best friend as happy as he was in that moment. Although soccer is his favorite sport, basketball was a close second, and with Bryant having lived part of his life in Italy and able to speak Italian fluently, he was an easy choice for his favorite NBA player.
This moment was made even more special because my best friend rarely showed genuine happiness. Oh, he could make the room roar in laughter, but he would often visit a dark place. You see, his mother and sister died in a tragic car accident while he was 13 years old. That’s why he decided to leave his father and brother behind and move to the United States when he got an opportunity — he figured getting as far away from Italy would somehow reduce the pain.
It didn’t, obviously, but I swear those two minutes Kobe spent with Christian was one of the best moments of his life, something he’ll always be able to dig up when needed.
Thank you for that, Kobe, and man oh man are you going to be missed.
For more on today’s matchup, please give Preston’s preview a read and remember to be good to everyone around you because one never knows what unfortunate may strike in the future.
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (17-29) vs Boston Celtics (30-14)
Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA
When: Sunday, January 26, 2019 5:00 PM CST
How: ESPN, FSNO