Missing Kobe: January 26th, 2020. Most of us were probably running errands or reading the Sunday paper. The day would not feature any NFL Playoff games, but the Pro Bowl. News would come in in the early afternoon hours(eastern time) though, that would make us all look at our phones in shock, disbelief, and would bring about a few eventual tears.
A story that broke through TMZ initially, it was discovered that a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, among nine individuals on board, crashed. There was so much fog that the pilot could not land it safely. John Altobellli, his wife Keri and his daughter Alyssa (14) were there, too. Sarah Chester, and her daughter Payton (13). Christina Mauser, a teacher/coach of Gianna’s, and pilot Ara Zobayan round out those tragically lost too soon.
Missing Kobe: It Didn’t Seem Real
As I sit and write this, a year has now passed since the tragic events of January 26th. Kobe Bryant has been gone for a year. While we pay homage to all of the terrific individuals lost in the crash, it was Kobe Bryant who specifically had such a profound impact on so many folks, and not just those who grew up Laker fans. He was doing some incredible things in his retirement, and was making great strides in having people understand equality in sport.
Kobe was larger than life, and reading that he had died, especially from a source like TMZ, didn’t feel real. I was on my way to have lunch with a friend, who like myself, lives and breathe sports. I had gotten a text from my mom saying ‘Sorry about Kobe”. Of course, I was a little confused. I had not yet seen TMZ’s tweet.
I thought she was referring to his scoring output being less than LeBron’s now, after the Lakers played the 76ers the night before. She told me that he had died. I didn’t know what exactly to believe, or do. It didn’t seem real. Kobe Bryant, dead? There was NO WAY. But it turned out to be true, and there was no refuting it. The only other basketball news story my mom ever broke to me first, was when the Nets acquired Vince Carter from the Raptors in 2004.
I drove to my friend’s house in silence, something I hardly ever do. No music, no radio, no audio, nothing. We had lunch as normal, and afterwards, we sat in the kitchen with his parents and brother, watching the news and Kobe for several hours after. None of us could believe that this had actually happened.
Missing Kobe: What Kobe Meant to Me
Truth be told, I didn’t start rooting for Kobe Bryant when I watched the Lakers until the very late stages of his career. As a fan, I tend to favor the underdogs, and Kobe was never one. One of the greatest scorers of all-time, he hit more difficult shots than any player ever has, and that’s an undisputed fact.
I remember the 81-point game. When he scored 62 against the Mavericks in three-quarters. His iconic alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal. How he carried one of the most banged-up contenders we’ve ever seen in the 2012-13 Lakers, to the playoffs. He suffered a torn ACL against the Warriors in a must-win game. And he came back in and sank two free-throws before leaving, in the crazy case he felt good enough to re-enter.
And I remember watching Kobe Bryant score 60 points in his final NBA game. My friend Steven was watching with my roommate and I in our dorm room, a rare case of staying up until 1:00 AM on a school night to watch basketball. But, this night was never going to be about sleep. Kobe put on the most incredible show, scoring 13 points on 5-5 shooting in the final three minutes to help the Lakers to one last incredible win. I have never forgotten this game. And never will.
Missing Kobe: Killer on the Court
To me, Kobe Bryant was a leader. He was a cold-blooded killer, in basketball terms. He spared no feelings, and just went out and played his game. In his playing days, and the years after when he was coaching Gianna (RIP), he was unapologetically himself. He didn’t care what people thought of him. He just worked his tail off and had those around him doing the same. Few have ever been like him, and few others ever will be again.
Every time I watch the Celtics, I see shades of Kobe in Jayson Tatum. The two had been working together, and the results are right there in front of us. Rest in Peace, Kobe.
Missing Kobe: Thoughts From Sports 2.0
“It was such a great loss to have Kobe die so young, when even in retirement, he had so much left to give basketball, and potentially the world. I had a chance to chat with him a couple of times early in his career and he was always smiling, open with his views on the game, and you could see that was coming back again in retirement.
“He was becoming a great ambassador for the game and as well as a teacher for anyone who wanted to listen in retirement. Despite his reputation as a bad teammate at times in his career, Bryant was well-respected by today’s players and could have been a great asset to the game in his post-playing years.”
-Sports 2.0 Editor/Writer
“I was 10 years old when I first heard the name Kobe Bryant. I grew up a Jordan loving Bulls fan, so naturally, I hated him because he acted a lot like Jordan.
“Kobe then went on to become my generation’s version of Jordan and over the years, I grew to love watching the virtuoso on the court. From the first time I watched him square off against Jordan, all the way to my all-time favorite Kobe memory, his final game. 60 points and the dagger. I’ll never forget Vanessa and Snoop Dogg’s reactions from the crowd. Iconic.
“He gave us all moments. Moments of glory and excitement that not many players in NBA history could bring us, outside of MJ and LeBron. Moments that I will certainly never forget and will cherish forever. The game misses him. Rest in Power, Legend.”
-Sports 2.0 Admin/Writer
“Out of all the major professional sports, basketball was always third for me behind football and baseball. However, Kobe Bryant played a major role in my life as a competitor on the football field. Kobe taught me that hard work is the major factor that can separate you from the competition.
“My favorite Kobe memory was actually a YouTube video that I saw where he was discussing his rivalry with Michael Jordan. One of Kobe’s teammates in the beginning of his career told him to not look MJ in the eyes. Kobe responded, ‘Why wouldn’t I look him in the eye.’ Kobe went on to say, ‘My teammate didn’t realize that I was that too. You can’t f***ing look me in the eyes either buddy.’
“Kobe never backed down from a challenge and I used his mentality to excel on the football field. Kobe Bryant helped me earn multiple D1 football scholarships so I couldn’t be more grateful for the life of this legend. He will never be forgotten.”
-Sports 2.0 Writer/Content Creator
ENJOY MISSING KOBE? MORE ON KOBE FROM MARK RICH: Remembering The Legend; My Hero
Missing Kobe: Rest in Power
It’s been a long year for all of us. And it can actually be said that the downfall of 2020 began with news of the Calabasas helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. One more time for Kobe. Thank you for all that you did for so many. May you, and Gianna, who had such a bright future in the game, rest in peace.
Rest in peace John Altobelli. Your wife Keri. Your daughter Alyssa. Gone too soon.
Rest in peace Sarah Chester. Your daughter Payton. Gone too soon.
Rest in peace Christina Mauser. Gone too soon.
Rest in peace Ara Zobayan. Gone too soon.