Sad day for me as Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time passed today from a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA, He was 41. The accident site is close to his home in Los Angeles. It has also been reported that his 13 year old daughter was also on the helicopter. All the pertinent information about Bryant can be found elsewhere.
Following Kobe Bryant, as most NBA and basketball fans have done since his early years in the Association, we can say he was not only a great scoring machine on the court, but a better man than many of us as of his work with society during and after his career on the hardwood.
At 17 he started his Hall-of-Fame career just out of high school. He was ready for this jump into the NBA at such an early age, never intimidated as a player from day one.
I remember when he came to Oklahoma City back in the day and beat my Thunder in their second year in the playoffs and how he gave Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook his approval as the future of the league. He noted that our two stars were in the process of becoming great themselves and that approval, from the superstar of the game, was cherished by those two.
His take on the Thunder to us Thunder fans and what we had going in OKC was also an important sign of approval. A few years later when these two young guns in OKC eliminated the Kobe led Lakers in another playoff series, again Kobe was gracious and gave credit where credit was due.
I will always remember that when the Lakers came to town here on the Reno Avenue, the large number of fans (from OKC) that would wear his jersey, telling the world he superseded the game. If you were a fan of Kobe, you were more of a fan of him than the team he played for. These people loved Kobe, and not so much the Lakers.
I remember a conversation that Russell Westbrook had with Kobe in downtown OKC on a off night before a game the next day. Westbrook would say he discussed the issue of staying with a team for a career or leaving a team for another team, middle career. As we know, Westbrook, after a long run as a Thunder, moved his game to Houston, and I am sure that conversation was something that Westbrook considered in his move. The fact was that Kobe was proud of always being a Laker. It is my belief that visit at a restaurant in Bricktown might have been the emphasis of OKC having Westbrook for many more years than most players stay with their original team.
I will miss Kobe Bryant and will always remember his games in Oklahoma City. It was my pleasure to watch an OLD SCHOOL player, a competitor of high regard.. He was one that is often hard to find in today’s NBA. A true sportsman on the court.
RIP Mr. Bryant.
Photo Credit: CNBC