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Second Overtime: Thanks for all the memories, Kobe


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- My friendship with Kobe Bryant was neither personal nor familial. It was professional, one confined in the workplace of an NBA galaxy where he was a shining bright star and I was an afterthought.

I first saw him in the 2001 NBA Finals, which I covered. I wasn't a fan of his style back then. Too much self and a lot less team.

But as he grew his game through the years, morphing into a leader who willed his team to victories while making others around him better, I happily surrendered my allegiance.

Although I've watched him play several times in the flesh throughout his magnificent 20-year NBA career, I didn't speak to him until after five years since I first laid eyes on the wunderkind.

Being around Kobe inside a locker room always muted my voice with awe and intimidation.

But that changed last December 19, 2006. It was a Wednesday night and the Lakers were in my Chicago stomping grounds playing the Bulls at the United Center. Being in my home city washed me with confidence as I walked inside the visitors' locker room.

Just moments before entering sacred space, I watched him in action from my assigned seat 6 at the press box on section 115. He struggled and hit just 6-of-19 shots for a pedestrian 19 points, but he still mesmerized an entire stadium for simply being Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers locker was teeming with people when I got there, Small pockets of reporters surrounded players who were available for interviews. Luke Walton was alone and I interviewed him a little, kind of a warm up routine.

And then Kobe emerged, And I was suddenly on fire.

Nervous. Anxious. Incredulous.

Like an errant Catholic, who reluctantly, almost tearfully, confesses his sins to a sympathetic priest, I somehow managed to talk to Kobe. And he turned out to be so nice, so much so that he obliged me with a photo op and signed my press pass for the game that I attended in Los Angeles where he dropped 81 points just 11 months before.



After that initial meeting I've since spoken to Kobe several times. And if you have a good pair of eyes, you'll see some of those encounters documented through photographs in this column.

I spoke to him for the last time on January 28, 2016 when he made his final visit at the United Center.

Just like many of you, I am stunned with his sudden, painful demise.

Life is so unfair. And I am angry.

For years Kobe Bryant has given us so much joy on the basketball court and now that he is retired, we were robbed of the opportunity to root for him as a father, a husband, an entrepreneur and a fierce advocate for women's sports.

An old saying goes: "Death never surprises a wise man; he's always ready to go."

That doesn't apply to Kobe. A hero to millions, immensely gifted, wise beyond his 41 years. He was supposed to live forever.

Taken to soon, Too young. Too many tasks undone.

It's been three days since cruel fate took him, but I already miss Kobe Bryant.

Thanks for all the memories, Black Mamba.


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


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