I never really thought about this day, even though every once in a while I knew it would happen. Kobe Bryant is retiring! It’s actually quite funny, I’ve always been a big Lakers/ Kobe fan and all the text messages I’ve gotten and FB posts I am tagged in is proof, if any was needed.
I remember working double shifts at Teletech in Burbank doing tech support for AT&T Internet service, going out to my Ford Tempo to listen to the games on the radio. Not unlike Fletch, I’ve felt like I was a part of the team. The camera would pan down the bench and there you would see me, next to Mark Madsen or Sasha Vujacic.
A few years later I would move to Houston. Let me tell you, it is hard being a Lakers fan in Houston. In Texas period! Actually, I often ran into a lot of Lakers fan’s in San Antonio, since I never went without wearing my Lakers gear. Rockets fan’s are really proud of their two back-to-back championships. I would always chuckle, “pfft, try 3 in a row! Try 16!”
In Houston, I ended up meeting my wife. One of our first dates was at a Rockets vs Lakers game. You know how the Lakers do, usually lazy up until the middle of the 3rd quarter and then they would turn it on. The crowd was pissed when they Lakers came from behind and won. My wife, to this day, still laughs at how crazy I looked jumping on my chair and waving my yellow and gold, I almost started a riot. I eventually converted her to Lakers fan and a few years later, it was my turn to look at her crazy as she almost got into a fight with Rockets fan for giving me a hard time.
A little after the Colorado incident, I wrote a letter to Kobe. It wasn’t a love letter, it was more of a Tupac “Keep ya head up!” type of message. I remember ending with a quote, something about how first they love you, then they hate you, then they destroy, and then they love you again. Some real hero/ martyr type stuff. I figured I would be able to get it to him since my wife was a professional cheerleader and would figure someway to get it to him. I was never able to get him that letter. I still have it, in a box somewhere.
I remember the last championship in 2010 watching the game with the only other Laker fan (besides my wife) I knew in Houston, my best friend David. We quietly, confidently sat as we were taunted Celtics fans that were really just Laker haters. The excitement of that win, reminding me of the 2001 WCF against Portland and the 2002 WCF against Sacramento, still gives me chills. I am not sure how we made it out of Sam’s Boat alive that day. I’m sure we were stomping through the crowd like Godzilla.
You may not understand why this is such a big deal for me. See, I’ve been watching Kobe play for the Lakers longer than I haven’t, the last 20 years of my life. So many triumphs and just as many frustrations. I’m sitting here watching his last game, knowing that the Lakers that I have known since early adulthood is officially over. Jerry West. Chick Hearn. Jerry Buss. Kobe. Even Gary Vitti. Gone. I don’t think the NBA or the Lakers will ever be the same.
Next is Vin Scully. I guess it’s time to be an adult now.