Story By: Sol Tucker
Photos By: Sol Tucker
So many of us have stories about how they remember the life and legacy Kobe Bryant. Mine dates back to 1996 NBA draft. I sat one summer night on the lawn of Georgetown just finishing my Junior year watching this other guy.. many of us know him, quite well now, he went by the name of Iverson. All of us knew he was bound to be a star and eventually the Number 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Who we didn’t know a lot about this other guy, but heard his name because he was close by, was a guy named Kobe Bryant. I enjoyed following prep stars or top High School talent and knew right away he needed to be included in conversation.
I talked about other names in that draft class like Kittles and Camby with my roommate, a big Lakers and LA resident who we all called LJ. These were dudes we saw play that Spring and one who knocked AI out of the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta. Yes, in that same discussion included Kobe Bryant. “You think he will be any good,” I said. “That guy, you know from outside Philly? Oh yes, only the best High School player anyone knew at the time is what my guy Lars responded. He knew him too. Just a regular guy coming out of High School on to the big stage right? “Not this guy. Kobe will be different.” Little did we know, he would become a superstar worldwide. On the court and off the court, he was that guy you wanted to be like, even if you didn’t play basketball, Kobe was a guy you could learn lessons by and grow by. We did and still will with his memories.
Over the next 20 years watching him win Olympic Metals and win Championships with the Lakers to the beat downs he gave the Wizards when he was on the court, it was nothing less than enjoyable every time. Kobe was pure basketball and a legend of his own. He did so much for the game and did so much to be a better person outside of the court. Even if he didn’t know you, he was just a nice guy. While its often rare for players of the opposing team to say much walking through an arena pre-game, he would give a nice hello walking by in pre-game to all the of the employees, once even one time asking me if I was going to get some good snaps of him on the court.
The last time I saw Kobe in person was not in a Lakers uniform or post game press conference, but this past summer at the WNBA All Star Game sitting next to his daughter helping the next generation learn the game he put his heart in soul into every night. He was not only a player, he was a supporter of the game. You could tell he wanted to be there. All of those WNBA girls wanted to meet Gianna and give her a chance to see a court one day she hoped of being on too. Most of them knew how good of a player she was becoming and even joked about her one day being better than her dad. She just smiled, the same way they did every time they were together.
Things we must remember are to be the best you can be and be a good person too. With everything we are seeing over the past few days, Kobe was that person being his best. This is the guy you wanted to be your neighbor in a time of need or someone who would stop in an intersection to direct traffic and offer help after witnessing an accident as he did this past summer. We will all remember your life, legacy and the ability to bring people together in a time of tragedy.
May we not forget those others who perished with him, us the baseball community will mourn the Altobelli family and the rest of the basketball community for those the families of Christina Mauser, Pilot Ara Zobayan and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.