So let the light guide your way, yeah
Hold every memory as you go
And every road you take, will always lead you home, home
Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth – See You Again
This post took a hell of a lot longer to finally surface than I had ever intended it to. I almost don’t even want to write it but it’s time. It started as a small idea for my own thoughts. What was one turned into two, two into four, and then on. At the end of it I had something much bigger in front of me than I could have guessed. In total I think it ended up being upwards of 48 jerseys amongst the other things put into it. I don’t regret a single second of time spent on it in the slightest. The photos are good sure, but this, looks much better in person. I might end up doing a video to try and show it off fully. Maybe I’ll even make it public for a while. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy it, Kobe fan or not. 24ever.
This is the kind of post I could have never anticipated sitting down to write. Even now after some time has passed I still can’t believe I am. I’m going to apologize now because once I really get rolling on this one it’s going to be tough to stop. I guess it’s just a sign of how much this matters to me. If you know me at all you know I am a huge Los Angeles Lakers fan, and more specifically a fan of Kobe Bryant. You also probably know that he, along with 8 others including his 13 year old daughter Gianna, tragically died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. I didn’t want to believe it then and I certainly don’t want to now but it’s the truth. It’s just not the kind of thing you expect to happen and while I didn’t know Kobe personally, I can’t help but feel like I did.
I think anytime that you root for a team or a player you form a sort of a bond to them. You may never meet them, never speak a word to them, but you feel like a part of what they or their team accomplish. You rise with them, you fall with them, you take the wins along with the losses. If you’re really a fan you’re there in the good times and bad. Now I’m not going to pretend that the Lakers have had a ton of bad times. Sure they’ve had periods of not being as successful, but at the same time they have the second most NBA championships in the history of the league. It’s reasonably easy to be a fan of them. I found myself rooting for them as the Chicago Bulls were starting off their second Three-peat of the 1990’s. In 1996 the Charlotte Hornets drafted Kobe Bean Bryant and then traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac and etc. It would be the beginning of my twenty plus years rooting for them.
I remember a lot of things even though I was only eleven years old at that time. I remember the air balls in Utah. I remember a kid in a league of grown men not caring that he missed, onto the next, fire away. Eventually your shot falls. I remember the growing pains leading to their first championship in X years. It would be the start of their very own Three-peat from 2000-2002. Watching Kobe and Shaq was incredibly fun. The power of Shaq (which anyone who knows basketball knows was damn near unmatched) mesh with the killer instinct of Kobe made for some amazing games.
I remember the team blowing through the entire Western Conference playoffs, literally never losing a game 11-0. I remember the Finals as well. My brother was a big Philadelphia 76ers fan and Allen Iverson was at his peak then. Everyone, myself included, thought that LA would come in and continue doing what they had done to the West. Win. They came close but ultimately fell short, losing 107-101 in overtime. It would their lone defeat of the post season, with 15-1 (as far as I recall) still being the best post-season record in league history.
I remember Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. It was Lakers-Kings and at the time that was a vicious rivalry. Sacramento was a very talented team but like the Jazz or Sonics at Michael Jordan’s peak, they found it hard to get past the Lakers. It was even more insane because they were the top seed that year which meant game 7 was in Sacramento’s building. I remember thinking the game was over as the Lakers trailed but I still sat and watched. They would prevail in the end and go on to win their third championship in a row.
I remember the bad times too. I’m fair and the accusations and things that were have said to have happened in Colorado in 2003 most definitely hung over both Kobe’s career at the time and the Lakers as a whole. The 2004 team was built to win -now-. Not only did they have Shaq and Kobe, but they added two greats near the end of their careers. Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Both had accomplished amazing things throughout their careers but the one thing that had eluded them was an NBA championship. Both had opportunities in the 90s, falling short each time to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Let’s be fair too, a lot of great players did so I would never judge many of the great players who happened to be in the way of the 90s Bulls.
I remember after falling short in 2004 the team had a choice to make. Keep Shaq and risk losing Kobe or move Shaq and keep Kobe. At the time Shaq was still a dominant player but he was older than Kobe. They chose to trade Shaq and build around their young gun. The team assembled around him from the 2004/05-2006/07 seasons was not particularly good. As the superstar of the team that fell at Kobe’s feet and as far as I remember he never shied away from it. In February of 2007 the team would trade for Pau Gasol and that would start a run of three straight years in the NBA finals. They would go on to lose to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Finals before winning back to back against the Orlando Magic in 2009 and the Boston Celtics in 2010.
I vividly remember watching Kobe drop 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. I actually have the game burned onto a DVD because it was the kind of thing you don’t see everyday. Mostly because teams can normally lock down 1 player and you usually don’t win games that way. It’s also the second most points scored in an NBA game in league history behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points scored in 1962. It was and always will remain a sight to see and I’m not sure it will ever happen again. You would think I’d have to look that up to know it, but I didn’t. I remember the game, I’ll never forget it.
It’s a huge loss of life in general. It’s even more sad to think that it happened in the middle of a what’s been a great season for the Lakers and with Kobe’s almost assured first ballot hall of fame induction in a matter of months. To think he won’t be able to see that or give that speech, to see the looks on his daughters’ and fan’s faces as that last great basketball honor is given to him, it just sucks. I know in the big scheme of things this happens and it’s never great. I just never thought I’d be writing about that. Not here, not now, maybe not ever. But life is cruel sometimes and this is one of those.
It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth – See You Again