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Looking back on Kobe Bryant

Looking back on Kobe Bryant Looking back on Kobe Bryant

The date is June 26, 1996. The place is East Rutherford, New Jersey. A young man steps up to a podium, flash bulbs and bright lights going off left and right.

He’s tall, which is to be expected of someone in his particular profession. Very tall to the average man. He stands well over six feet tall, is African American and has just heard his name called in the first round of the NBA draft.

The lucky team? None other than the Charlotte Bobcats.

I’m talking about Kobe Bryant, of course. His time with the Bobcats organization would be very brief, as shortly after his drafting, he was almost immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

L.A. was taking a chance on the young man, who at 17 on that day was coming directly out of high school. Most NBA basketball players who are drafted directly out of high school rarely work.

For every LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, there’s dozens of Kwame Browns and Darko Milicec’s - players who are gifted, but never succeed in the NBA.

As Bryant was still only 17 at the time, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.

The rest, as we say, is history. Bryant would go on to have what many consider the second finest basketball career, behind only Michael Jordan.

I loved watching Kobe play, and loved following his career. The sport of basketball was always my first love, but as I was destined to never be more than a shooter and bench warmer, I could live vicariously through Bryant’s many exploits.

He was a wizard on the court, and did things that defied logic and seemingly physics. He matched his athleticsim with a work ethic that was just as legendary as his play.

All told, Bryant would win five NBA championships for the Lakers and play for almost 20 years, carving his name into the history books. He was not a perfect man by any means, he had his troubles off the courts, but he seemed to learn and to strive to teach and help others become better people, and not just players.

He and his daughter, Gianna, a fine basketball player in her own right, who seemed destined for her own great legacy, passed away a little more than a week ago in a helicopter accident. It was a loss felt by many because Kobe meant so much to them. Fans like myself watched him grow up before our eyes.

We appreciated his hard work and admired him and how he enjoyed growing the game abroad. It hurts to lose a good person, hurts to see people struck down before their time, but I will choose to remember how Kobe lived, and remember his legacy.