Gone But Not Forgotten

I have been a sports writer in the City of Los Angles for over 45 years. I have interviewed and covered some of the greatest athletes in the world. I started writing sports when I was a student at UCLA during John Wooden days so my introduction into the sports writing world started with greatness but Kobe Bryant redefined greatness.

Bryant, his 13 year old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas last Sunday morning. They were on their way to a girls' basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park near the Thousand Oaks area. That crash could be heard around the world.

My last private conversation with Kobe was during halftime at a WNBA Sparks' game at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles a few years ago. I ran into him in the media dining room and I remembered that a family relative had asked me if I could get his autograph. Media members are not supposed to ask for autographs but the room was practically empty so I approached him. It turned out to be one of best interactions I have ever had with an athlete.

I told him Nick, who was 12 at the time, loved him so much he sleeps in a Kobe jersey. Kobe laughed and signed the autograph. I said thank you and as I walked away and looked at the autograph it was the most legible and neat autograph I had ever seen. Kobe did everything at the highest level.

There are only a few athletes on the face of this earth that if you say their name people know who they are. Kobe is one of the few. Ali, Pele and Tiger are on the list but Kobe is at the top. From Africa to China to Europe to Latin America, his name is at the top of the list. The whole world is crying.

We have watched Kobe grow up from a brash 17 year old prodigy to a stunningly handsome 41 year old family and business man. After retiring from the Lakers in 2016 after 20 years with the organization he moved on to conquer other endeavors. He started his own production company which produced an Academy Award winning short story about basketball, but the endeavor that was closest to his heart was being able to spend more time with his family.

His oldest daughter, Natalia actually played a CIF playoff volleyball game against Culver City a few years ago on the Culver City campus and his second oldest daughter, Gianna played basketball at a high level. They were on their way to one of her games when the helicopter crashed. Kobe attended the volleyball game at Culver City.

Let us not forget that there were seven other people that died in the horrific crash last Sunday and they are just as important as Kobe and Gianna but Kobe was one in a trillion because of what he did on and off the court.

On the court Kobe won five NBA championships, two NBA finals Most Valuable Player Awards and one NBA Most Valuable Player Award. He was a 17 time NBA All-Star, a two time Olympic Gold Medal winner, four time NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and he was named to the All-NBA team 15 times. He was named to the NBA All Defensive team 12 times, he won a Slam Dunk Contest, he was a two-time scoring champion and he scored 81 points in a game. The last game he played as a Laker he scored 60 points.

Kobe played the most seasons for one NBA franchise and he ended his career as the all-time leading scorer in Lakers history. He was also named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year when he was in high school in Pennsylvania.

Like it said on the box of his bobble head doll in 2016, HEROES COME AND GO, BUT LEGENDS ARE FOREVER.

Kobe and Gianna are survived by his wife of 18 years, Vanessa and his three daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.


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