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News  


SECOND OVERTIME: My cherished moments with the Black Mamba


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- Although I first saw him in person during my coverage of the 2001 NBA Finals, I didn't actually talk to Kobe Bryant until five years later when the Los Angeles Lakers played the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

Like those special moments in life, such as your first kiss and the birth of your children, my encounter with Kobe was something I will never forget, Although age and the moderate abuse of alcohol has robbed some sharpness out of my memory, I still have a vivid recollection of that meeting.

It was a Monday, December 19, 2006. The Bulls beat the Lakers that night, 94-89 and Kobe uncharacteristically played like a mere mortal, hitting just 6-of-19 field goals for 19 points. He also had six fouls and four turnovers.

After the game he held court inside the visitors locker room, fielding reporters questions. I was in the middle of the scrum. Nervously excited, Mesmerized. Speechless.

When his league mandated media session ended, Kobe, elegantly dressed like always, began his exit. If I didn't act quickly, the golden opportunity of talking to an all-time great would walk out the door with him. So I went into action, and with all the courage I could muster, I pounced like a -- pun intended--- Black Mamba.

Much to my surprise, Kobe actually stopped to talk to me after I introduced myself. I was wrapped in a bubble of elation, my knees wobbled and my restless heart raced a thousand times. And when he gave me a handshake and a bro hug I swore I almost died. We talked about hoops in the Philippines, his Filipino fans and then some.

Through the years since then, I met Kobe again multiple times. On each occasion he would give me a knowing smile, a fist bump, and when he has time, a few minutes to chat. I interviewed him at Staples Center a few days before Manny Pacquiao fought Floyd Mayweather in May 2005. I went to Detroit for his last game at the Palace of Auburn Hills last December 6, 2015 and I watched his last game at the United Center last February 21, 2016.

Now retired after a 20-year career that netted him 5 championships, one NBA regular season MVP award, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards and 18 All-Star appearances, Kobe's next stop is the Hall-of-Fame.

The Lakers retired his two jerseys --- No.8 and No. 24 --- yesterday in a halftime ceremony at Staples Center, where many of his great accomplishments were forged. It was a fitting tribute to perhaps the greatest Laker to ever play. ​

​Although Michael Jordan remains the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Kobe is right there, a mere whisper away.

Kobe finished his career with 33,643 points, 7,047 rebounds and 6,306 assists. He made 11,719 field goals, 8,378 free throws and 1,837 3-point shots.

While statistics can measure a lot of Kobe's productivity, it cannot measure his resolve, his desire and outstanding work ethic. And most all, statistics can never measure the Black Mamba heart that was as big as the state of California.

Photo: The author (R) interviews Kobe.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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