Kobe Bryant: From My Eyes

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You know the phrase, you’re missing out? Sure you do, at some point in time someone has said it to you when you chose to stay behind for something. Or you said it to someone in the same light. But for me personally, I was missing out when it came to Kobe Bryant. 

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Photo courtesy of nba.com
I was a Kobe hater. When I was younger, I was a much bigger basketball fan than I am today. The game was different growing up in the 90s. We had Michael Jordan, then you had all the greatness chasing him. Shaq and Penny. Kemp and Payton. Hakeem and Clyde. Barkley. Miller. Ewing. The talent in the league was next to none. The 90’s in the NBA was peak NBA. It was peak basketball.

I was never a Jordan hater until the 1996 NBA Finals. To be honest, I was probably in the minority. Most kids loved Jordan. Wanted to be Jordan. Be like Mike, remember?

I was simply impartial. I was a young scrawny kid in Massachusetts being too infatuated with a team clear across the country in Seattle. But then the '96 Finals came. Seattle finally made it - it was their time, it was my time. I will never forget my dad talking to me before that series started. I was a poor loser. Hell, I still am. I hate losing.

But I remember precisely what my dad said to me. “Ryan, don’t get upset if this series does not go the way we want it to, because it probably won’t.” Yeah sure, ok Dad. Did I listen? Of course not. What 8 year old listens to their parents? 

Jordan and company proceeded to take down the Sonics in six games in a series that honestly never felt that close. I was so upset. I finally learned first hand what Jordan was capable of. I hated Jordan. 

As I grew up, I still was a Sonics fan at heart (and today a Thunder fan because of it), but times got rough in Seattle, and I LOVED Reggie Miller. The Sonics were my first love, but the clutchness of Reggie excited the hell out of me. I was 10, 11, 12 years old in my backyard chucking up three after three after three. “Pacers down 2, Miller at the buzzer…..IT'S GOOD! IT'S GOOD!

In the summer of 2000 Reggie and the Pacers finally broke through to the NBA Finals. Who awaited them? New Jordan. Kobe Bryant. I remembered the words my father uttered to me 4 years prior, but it didn’t help. Just like in '96, the team I wanted to win lost in six games and I was pissed. Shaq won the MVP that series, but Kobe was Kobe. In Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, and again in Game 6 to clinch it, Kobe powered the Lakers. I hated Kobe.

Fast forward to the twilight years of Kobe’s career. The Lakers really aren't the Lakers anymore, and the only reason you paid any sort of attention to them at this point was to see the final days of Kobe. It was this time I started to turn on Kobe in a positive light. Rooting for him in that final game to reach that 60 point mark. Cheering like your team just won the NBA Finals when Kobe put the Lakers up one with 30 seconds to play. You live and you learn. I realized what Kobe was. I realized what I had been missing out on; Greatness. 

I am 32 years old now. That very small window of age to honestly be able to consider Jordan and Kobe in the same generation. I grew up watching both of their primes. But for an entire slew of kids, Kobe was the next Jordan. I was older now and knew I was hating greatness for all those years and I did not have that hatred anymore. The hatred was based on the sourness of my teams not winning while the likes of Jordan and Kobe kept winning. I literally began to like Kobe as his career ended and his post playing days began. He became more personable. More likable. Now to the part this whole article has been leading up to.

It was Sunday afternoon and I was visiting my parents with my girls. I am a dad now. Two daughters. Two wild and crazy daughters. We were just starting to clean up so the two of them and I could head back home to my wife and spend the rest of our Sunday relaxing and watching Toy Story 4. I took out my phone (out of habit), went right to Twitter and refreshed my feed. The TMZ report popped up essentially saying Kobe Bryant had died.

I gasped. I refreshed it again. And again. And again. The story was beginning to gain traction. Texts are starting to fly in. I blurted it out to my father, “Kobe Bryant is dead.” My Dad responds with a pronounced “WHAT?!” He begins feverishly looking for the remote to put on ESPN, CNN, anything that could be reporting this. We settle on ESPN, which is in the pregame show for the Pro Bowl and you could see Adam Schefter keep peering over at his phone. You knew he was seeing what we were seeing.

In the five minute drive from my parents house, to mine, the confirmation came in. Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. He was 41 years old

The next hour or so is filled with erroneous reports of who was on board and who wasn’t. I flipped from ESPN, to CNN, to Fox News. I felt sick. Kobe has 4 girls, one a newborn.  I am a dad now. The report came out that his 13 year old daughter was with him. I teared up. Did I mention I am a dad now?

I hated Kobe. I wasted so many years hating him, mainly because of jealousy. I finally respected him. Enjoyed listening to him speak and do charity work, and most of all, be a dad. To four girls.

I don’t have four girls, but I do have two. This hit home, and I think I speak for a lot of people that it did for you too. I cannot begin to imagine what their final thoughts were as that helicopter went down, nor do I want to as it makes me sick to my stomach. Little girls need their father. A wife needs her husband. Now there are three girls out there without their dad, without their sister, and a mom without a daughter or a husband to be by her side.

Kobe Bryant seemed immortal. He was ruthless on the court and he played to win every single possession, game, and day. He trained to be the best and only the best. There was no other option for Kobe Bryant. But the more I have learned about him over the past couple of years, is he had that same mentality as a father. To be the best.

Kobe was doing nothing more than being a dad by being in that helicopter. Kobe mentioned a few years back that the point of the helicopter was so he never had to miss a single one of his daughters’ dance recitals, or basketball games, or to just be home being a dad because of the LA traffic. I have never been to LA, but we all know that traffic is no joke. Kobe was missing out on his kids and the helicopter was his way to be back to them in 15 minutes. 

Kobe was simply getting his daughter to her basketball game. They never made it. Instead the NBA, the country, the world has lost a legend, an aspiring 13 year old girl, and seven other innocent lives. 

I have this little thing I do when I leave the house in the morning for work. Eight years ago when my wife and I moved in together is when it started. I give her a kiss and say I will see you tonight. It’s never goodbye. Even if she is still sleeping when I leave, I kiss her forehead and whisper those words. “I’ll see you tonight.” It is my little way of ensuring no matter what happens throughout the day, we will ALWAYS get back to each other at night. I now say the same to my girls that daddy will see you tonight. This morning I did the same to all three of them except, my wife got an extra kiss and each girl got a longer, tighter hug. 

I hate that it takes something so unspeakable to remind us all how fragile life is, but while we have the reminder, don’t let it slip away. Hug your parents. Your kids. Your husband, wife, friends. Anyone you care about, and tell them you love them.

Laura, Lilliana, and Gracelynn. I Love You, and I will see you tonight.

Rest in Peace Kobe. Rest in Peace Gianna.

And rest in peace to everyone on that helicopter.

Rest In Peace Alyssa Altobelli.
Rest In Peace John Altobelli.
Rest In Peace Kerry Altobelli.
Rest in Peace Christina Mauser.
Rest in Peace Sarah Chester.
Rest in Peace Payton Chester. 
Rest in Peace Ara Zobayan.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Kobe Bryant: From My Eyes
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