Thursday, 14 April 2016
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Dear Diary...or should I say Kobe!?
I can't believe it! I mean we all knew it was coming, but you know most of us refuse to believe something until we see it. Or learn the hard way. Or maybe it's just a case of not thinking about something we don't ever want to actually happen. A kind of wishful thinking that it doesn't. A fruitless approach but one still full of an effort that goes unrecognised. It's for sure not a case of you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone. We all knew for 20 years what we had.
But after two decades, one last season of winding down, farewell tour games, four final quarters and a buzzer horn it was all over. Retired. Rafter banner and Hall ready. Forever in fame...but no longer in game.
I woke up this morning and Kobe Bryant was gone.
One of the greatest NBA players of all time. Certainly the closest inspiration to his idol, Michael Jordan, 23. Number 24 and 8...about to be up there with his teammate Shaq and all the other Laker greats. Mikan, Wilt, the fire of Jerry West, the ice of Elgin Baylor, the silk of Jaamal Wilkes, Big Game Worthy, Cap Kareem and the Magic man. Perhaps if it wasn't for Earv, Kob' would go down...and up as the greatest Laker ever, but as Johnson introduced the Black Mamba to the STAPLES crowd last night you knew whose Hollywood night it was.
To the tune of 60 incredible points at his age in front of an 18,000 sell out in front of the game and Hollywoods elite. From former teammates Derek Fisher and thank God Lamar Odom, to celebrities like Kanye West, Jay Z and of course Jack.
About to hand it down to number 2 D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr and their Laker legacy after one more memory for his Vino and Gold legend on Mamba Day.
The Nike athlete just did it like the commercial. Not even Jordan could take the air out his career like this. You have to love this a######!
One more for the road. One last ride.
Pick a moment from the history books for your memory banks. There's more than eight wonders for number 24 over that many seconds, 48 minutes and 82 games, over the amount of time it takes your kid to be a man of their own.
Since '96...golden classic!
There's the time he took his talent and sunglasses to the draft. Or the time he made all us high school kids jealous by taking Brandy to the prom. From Tyra Banks to his wife Vanessa he was the man. He even had the balls to rap. But it was his skill in another game with just one ball that really kept it real. Just like winning the Slam Dunk contest, rookie year in your warm ups. Or starring with Shaq, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel in an almost full Western All-Star starting team. And then there was the three titles with the Shaq and Zen Master dynasty. Then two more with his Spanish brother Pau Gasol and Phil and Fish again. And let's not leave out those two Olympic gold medals in the Dobermans kennel.
Who could forget? Like numbers like 81. Or 62 points over three quarters over Dallas like a Maverick. Giving Dwight Howard and Steve Nash a baptism before they ever christened the L.A. court as Lakers. Who could forget all the dunks, crossovers and fadeaways? All the moves, shaking off all the injuries. Like a torn rotator cuff, playing through the pain of his shoulder hanging out his socket. Or tearing his Achilles, trying to push it back into place like the God that he is, before standing up and making two free throws. Before walking off like the legend he is...no Paul Pierce wheelchair. Or even fellow retired Laker legend Gary Vitti popping that dislocated digit back in its painful place. Atta boy!
From Boston to Beans town there are so many Mamba moments through the snakes and ladders of his time on the hardwood pine. Like his Phantom Menace, force play in that operatic face mask. Or the Coach Kobe sidelined time...hey, you never know! Or a personal favourite how he reacted to (or should we say didn't) when former teammate, than a foe Matt Barnes tried to inbound the ball in his face.
Everyone's got their own special moment. That's just how much he means to so many people.
The career of Kobe Bryant means more to me than just being a 'bleed purple and live gold' fan of the L.A. Lakers. Being born in the soccer mad U.K. I started liking Basketball in 1996 when I was 11 years old. Jordan was the greatest but If I didn't want to look like a "glory supporter" I had to pick someone else other than the Chicago Bulls to follow as a fan. Los Angeles and the purple and sunshine gold of the Lakers drew me in like the backcourt play of Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Little did I know that months later they'd draft some 18 year old and a big fella. 20 years of living and dying hard with the same team and I just had to make the trip back to the States this January to see Kobe play at STAPLES one last time. I mean I've not just grown up with this guy I've wrote about him when the lack of televised coverage in my home country meant I had to find another way to stay connected to his story. I got my first writing gig off an article I wrote about him. Too young to have witnessed Magic I don't just owe my Laker gold memories to him...I owe my career to him.
All good things don't come to an end...they live on in memory!
#FarewellKobe Thank you for everything! #TheKobeSeries