Kobe Bryant officially reached retirement last night. And right before that he dropped 60 points on the Jazz. Not a bad way to go out. I didn’t stay up for the second half, but I did tune in for the early part of the game looking for one last chance to see him on the court. And while I was watching him chuck him up shot after shot trying to give Lakers fans a final show I started running through my Kobe memories.
I remembered his legal issues. I recalled a poor imitation of an MJ late game takeover early in his career where he floated up a few fade away air balls and gave the game away. There were championships with and without Shaq and the feud between the two. And then I started flashing back to the couple of times I saw him play in person. When I was 20 me and two buddies drove from Uniontown, PA to Chicago for spring break so we could see the Lakers play the Bulls. Before that, when I was only 14 years old I saw him play in the 1996 McDonald’s High School All-American game. I started thinking of who was at the game with me and I remembered sitting next to my Mom. And then I wasn’t thinking about basketball so much anymore.
In 1996 I was a boy and I’m pretty sure I thought seeing that game in person was going to be the coolest thing I’d ever see. I was surprised my Mom even got tickets for our family. Old ladies (she was 2 years older than I am now) weren’t supposed to understand the draw of watching high school kids play basketball. But we went to the game and she cheered, had fun, and even shared the opinion that when all was said and done the game wasn’t all that entertaining given the fact nobody played any defense. I loved that my Mom could talk basketball with me and offer an intelligent opinion.
My mom made my young life that day. She knew I loved basketball and even if she didn’t understand the draw of watching high school kids play, she saw my enthusiasm and made it happen. I can’t remember a single play from that game. Not one. But I remember being there with my Mom. It’s sad to see Kobe go.