Lakers: Continuing to remember Kobe Bryant on emotional 8-24

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) /

The legacy of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant lives forever.

It’s been 211 long days since the unthinkable passing of global icon, Kobe Bryant. It’s been exactly six months since the breathtaking memorial service and celebration of life for Kobe and his bright, late 13-year-old daughter Gianna held in the Staples Center, the house Kobe built through a staggering two-decade-long career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

For 166 of those 211 days, the NBA season and countless other aspects of daily life were abruptly shut down, upended, and permanently compromised due to the novel coronavirus.

The events of January 26th left me in the numbest, most shocking state of mind I’ve experienced in my life. Like many others around the globe, I sat watching media coverage of the Calabasas helicopter crash with a sustained dropped jaw for four or five hours.

Something I never thought a celebrity I didn’t know personally could do to me. I desperately awaited the breaking news that TMZ got it wrong, and Kobe is alive and well. Instead, we watched the confirmed news grow worse and worse.

Reflecting on Kobe’s death, the passing of a staple of my childhood, he was my first source of basketball inspiration. Coupled with three bright, free 13-year-old girls who don’t get a chance at life, and other parents gone, leaving multiple families forever torn apart, it was simply the most stunned I’ve ever been.

Then weeks later, this virus changed our entire world overnight. Those separate unthinkably saddening and weird events coinciding within a six week period is almost as eerie as Kobe’s passing itself. It has made us all beg for an entire redo of 2020, and equally be appreciative of what we have here.

The unquestioned source of early basketball ambition, inspiration

Now, I’ll save speaking on all of the obvious memorable individual and team accolades from the five championship rings, 81 point game, or even the time he was filmed calling lackluster teammates soft like Charmin during practice. Moments that made us love and admire the man in the arena but frankly don’t need to be repeated at great length.

Instead, I find it far more appropriate to speak on what he meant to me as a basketball purist, always watching him with a purpose of getting better as he taught. In terms of footwork, tough shot-making, and the most glaring attribution: spirit and competitive will to improve each day and be great, there’s no one else you’re trying to emulate in this century. Period.

Especially for guards with a score first, two-way impact mentality: Mamba mentality. It was my first thought reflecting on Kobe’s impact on Jan. 26. Still is. As a two-guard, whether it’s a practice, pickup ball, or a game, every single difficult shot I’ve ever taken, I’ve felt I have at least a chance of converting, thanks to Kobe.

Sadly, as overwhelming of a basketball inspiration as he was, as a young man, the inspiration of being a great father, husband, and caregiver for young people, is the greatest gut-punch of all.

Post-NBA career in 2016, he was growing as a great filmmaker, winning an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short “Dear Basketball.” He also opened Granity Studios for writing and storytelling to children, an example to athletes everywhere to sustain that same drive to be great and inspire others to be great in your post-career.

Even language was no barrier for Kobe, who was fluent in both Italian (where he spent most of his early life) and Spanish, which he would speak in interviews to connect to the Latino community.

LeBron X Kobe chilling parallels

Before the great LeBron James emerged as the best player on the planet in the mid-2000’s, the top players were the great Tim Duncan and Kobe. Countless kids around my age have those two to thank specifically for all of the work ethic and fundamental lessons they provided, leading by example.

Speaking of LeBron, who happens to be the face of the current Lakers franchise, he has many eerie parallels with his late friend and Olympic teammate, Kobe. The man with the most storied Laker career ever.

It’s been well documented that LeBron surpassed Kobe for third in points scored in league history on the night before Kobe’s passing January 25th with 33,644 points.

Kobe had 16,866 points in the first ten years of his career wearing number 8. He had 16,717 points in his last ten years of his career wearing number 24. A true microcosm of his consistent greatness.

In the first game of the NBA’s restart on July 31st, LeBron surpassed Kobe in regular-season wins with 837. In the Lakers’ first playoff game on August 18th, he surpassed Kobe in career triple-doubles with 22.

LeBron’s Lakers are the Western Conference’s top seed for the first time since 2010, when Kobe won his fifth and final title versus the NBA’s winningest, most storied franchise in the Boston Celtics.

As a Celtics lifer, the code in Boston is to hate your rivals with no remorse. But Kobe, man, he had that Tom Brady or Derek Jeter type of focus and approach to the game to the point that he commanded your admiration and he got it from me and Celtics lifers everywhere as a bitter rival.

The Lakers, and rest of this year’s playoff teams, are fighting for an unprecedented title together in the “NBA bubble” in Orlando, the city where Kobe won his fourth title in 2009 versus Dwight Howard’s Magic. The most monumental for his legacy at the time: His first ring without fellow top 10 all-time player and dominant center Shaquille O’Neal by his side.

LeBron is also chasing his fourth ring (and first as a Laker) in Orlando and is currently tasked with getting past the Portland Trail Blazers, which is the same team that Kobe had to overcome in the Western Conference Finals to win his first ring as a Laker.

These ongoing parallels between the two players that defined this modern era of basketball, both Lakers, really makes it feel like he’s still here. He’s forever embedded in LeBron and countless other players’ spirit and drive.

Appropriately, the Lakers play Portland tonight in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, which would’ve taken place in April any other year and not 8/24 of 2020, the year Kobe died.

Special impact and significance of 8-23, 8-24 of 2020

I wrote this piece with a heavy heart yesterday, August 23rd, on what would’ve been Kobe’s 42nd birthday. Today, the numerical date marks the two numbers he has hanging in the rafters of the Staples Center in 8/24. Orange County, CA where Kobe resided, appropriately labeled today “Kobe Bryant Day.” It’s just unbelievable.

dark. Next. The 10 best Kobe Bryant games of all-time

We continue to keep the Bryant, Altobelli, Chester, Mauser, and Zobayan families in our thoughts through this unthinkably challenging year. Mamba Forever.