I’ve been burning with Laker Pride since I was 7 or 8. Living in the land of the Celtics, it wasn’t easy. But when you neighbor owns the basketball hoop, he gets to pick his team first. He was always Bird and the Celts. I happily pretended to be Magic and the Lakers as we played out full games in his driveway. When Kobe came along, it was super special. A player that was introduced in my time, of my time, and one that held the keys to our basketball future.
Once Shaq showed up and we returned to Championship form, nothing came close to that. I was lucky enough to live in Southern California one summer when the Lakers topped Kidd and the Nets in the Finals. I felt like I was among my people! And WE were champions!
Years later, getting to witness the Celtics come back up and then Kobe, D-Fish, and Pau take them on head to head two years in a row, that was epic. I watched the Lakers get them in the rematch and rode home from work hooting and hollering down the streets of Augusta, Maine. I was at work the morning Kobe’s death popped up on Twitter. It was a moment of surrealism. How, why? I was heartbroken, but I didn’t breakdown until I saw the posts with him and Gianna. And then, it was easy to imagine me and or my own daughter being here one minute and gone the next. Leaving behind a family and a legacy off sorts. When I saw Shaq crying on TV, that made it all hit me again.
Mamba was in my thoughts again last night as I watched the Lakers take down the Trailblazers. I never get as fired up as I do watching a Lakers playoff game. Not by any other sport. I thought of all the great battles between Kobe’s Lakers and the Suns. How hard fought those games always seemed to be. I thought about that last night and felt the same fire. As much as my neighbor and Magic got me into the team, and as pumped as I was for Bron and AD last night, when watching a Lakers playoff game in my living room I’ll always think of Kobe knocking down an impossible three or snaking his way through defenders for a shot he shouldn’t be able to make in the paint.
We love you and miss you Kobe! Happy birthday!