Thank you, Kobe.

Staff

Several celebrity deaths have changed the way I think about certain things. Nipsey Hussle and Juice WRLD, a Chicago native just like me to name a few. 

But Kobe.

Kobe Bryant was different.

I was in the kitchen, making some spaghetti for dinner that night while watching YouTube. 

All of a sudden, a text pops up from a group chat I’m in with coworkers.

“Is Kobe Bryant really gone?” it reads. 

Confused, but not worried, I shrugged off the text and refocused on the boiling noodles in the pot in front of me. 

But once I left the pot to cook, I opened up Twitter to see an article from TMZ.

“Kobe Bryant Dead, Dies in Helicopter Crash”

No, there’s no way that’s real. I mean, TMZ is all based on rumors, there was no way that someone like Kobe could’ve died in something as absurd as a helicopter crash.

So back I went to the pasta, not too worried about the situation at all. After I had taken the pasta out and mixed it in with sauce, another Twitter notification popped up on my phone. It was a retweet from one of my coworkers, with the original tweet from the LA County Sheriffs. 

“Five people confirmed deceased, no survivors in Calabasas helicopter crash. LASD Malibu deputies remain with LA County Fire personnel. Investigation ongoing. Avoid the area until further notice.”

As I read every word, I got more and more worried. Things were seemingly starting to add up. I just stood there, paralyzed, searching all over Twitter to see if there was any chance that the rumors were false, and this was all a big mistake. 

“There’s no way” I texted back in our group chat.

But then all my worst fears came true, as NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet was the next awful thing to flash across my screen. 

“Kobe Bryant is among those dead in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles, a source confirms to ESPN.” 

It didn’t hit me then, It still doesn’t feel real now. Someone I watched play growing up. Watching his highlights on YouTube, with the infamous lob to Shaq in the 2000 Western Conference Finals. He was one of the greatest to ever play, and out of the blue, he was gone. 

My legs started to buckle underneath me. I couldn’t stay on my feet. I won’t lie and say I was his biggest fan, because I’ve always been a LeBron James fan. But I love the game of basketball, and losing someone as legendary as Kobe hurt in a different kind of way. He was a once in a generation player, someone you had to respect as a fan because he was just that good. 

Tears started to crawl down my face as I was reading through what had happened, it completely ruined my day, and probably my week. I thought “this can’t get any worse” but it did. 

“Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash.”

Seeing that, I buried my face in my hands and cried some more. The number of victims increased to nine. It had gotten worse.

I don’t even remember what I did in the hours between the time I found out and the time I went to church. But when I went to church, I put the only Kobe shirt I had under my dress shirt. On one side, his first number, 8, hung below the signature “Lakers” in cursive, and on the back, his most recent number 24 with “Bryant” reading above it. 

Driving in autopilot, I headed to church. The Bryant family and all the others affected by the crash were in my head on my way there. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, had just lost a husband and a daughter on the same day. Then my thoughts went to the other seven victims, and their families who were equally affected. 

When I finally got to church I felt a tad better. A man in my pew wore a Kobe jersey, and the pastor mentioned him and the other victims in his prayers before communion. 

After mass was over, I unbuttoned my shirt, unveiling my Kobe shirt beneath as I headed to an area in the church where people lit candles for people who had passed away. I lit two, one for Kobe, and the other for his daughter, Gianna. 

Kneeling at the candles, I prayed. I told the Lord I trusted his decision, and I knew he would take care of both of them in heaven. 

Kobe’s last game felt like it was just yesterday. April 13th, 2016, Los Angeles, California. 18,997 people in a sold out Staples Center. 5.2 million watching across the world, one of those being me.

Sat on my bed, engaged from the tip-off, I watched number 24 run up and down the court for the final time. As the game progressed, I thought the Utah Jazz were going to ruin the moment. But that’s when the last Mamba moment came out of the 20 year veteran. 

He exploded for 13 points in the final two minutes, bringing his total up to 60 points, the most by any player in his final game. Only someone like Kobe could pull that off.

The entire fourth quarter, I was on my feet as the Black Mamba hit shot after shot. It felt like it was only yesterday that I heard “Mamba Out” as Kobe left the floor for the final time. Kobe’s death was a tragic and sad end to an incredible career full of historic moments that will live on forever.

The Mamba Mentality will live on forever.

Thank you, Kobe Bean Bryant. 

Rest in peace, Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan.