Remembering Kobe Bryant, a Man Who Never Trusted in Tomorrow
I was 12; he was 19. In one moment, I learned that the future wasn’t guaranteed.
I met Kobe Bryant once.
I was 12 years old, on a trip to Los Angeles with my dad and my sister. We spent a night walking around Venice, and wandered into a Barnes and Noble because my dad wanted to buy John Lewis’ new memoir. It was late enough that the store was about to close, late enough that it was essentially empty. We were at the cash register; that’s when I turned around and saw him.
Tall. Taller than impossibility, with an afro that made him taller. He was wearing sweatpants and an Adidas shirt and he looked like something I was imagining. The year was 1998; Kobe Bryant was a few weeks removed from being swept by Utah in the Western Conference finals. He was only 19 years old, averaging 26 minutes a game off the bench for the Lakers and averaging 15 points a game. Unspectacular numbers, but it was clear he was going to be a star.
I turned around to my dad and sister and tried to whisper to them that he was behind us, but the whispers were more like muffled screams that bounced off every book cover in that empty store. I turned around again. This time, Kobe was laughing at me.
“Hey, kid,” he said, “you really need to get a different sweatshirt.”
I looked down. I was wearing a big-ass Nike sweatshirt and Kobe was a newly minted Adidas star. I don’t remember what else we talked about, but I remember he talked to me. Like, really talked to me, when he didn’t have to. My dad to this day says he’d always respect Kobe for that night — and for another reason, too. “Any 19-year-old kid with his life, buying a book at that time of night, has to be a good guy” he’d always say. I left Barnes and Noble trying to understand the fact I’d just met the next Jordan.
I think back to that night often. I wonder what book Kobe was buying. What piqued his curiosity that night so badly that he had to get to a bookstore right then and there? If I ever ran into him again, I thought, I’d ask him. He probably wouldn’t…