I keep waiting for images to surface of Kobe Bryant leading his daughter Gianna, and everyone else on board the helicopter, out of the wreckage.
I know that’s not going to happen. But he wasn’t supposed to go out like this.
As a child, I despised Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. I spewed endless vitriol towards them and relished every victory over the purple and gold.
Through my adolescent years, that hatred morphed into respect. As Kobe’s career started to wind down, it became adoration.
Now the man who I grew to love and respect has been tragically taken from our Earth, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other souls.
I woke up Sunday morning hoping for a Spurs victory over the Toronto Raptors. I ended Sunday afternoon attempting to enjoy a game of professional basketball, without worrying about the outcome.
Forget the accolades. Forget the controversies. Forget the results. Kobe Bryant had a special bond with San Antonio and its fans.
It felt like he was part of us, regardless of what uniform he wore. His tenacity and passion matched ours. His ability and relentlessness left us breathless and wanting more.
And none of that was more evident than during his final visit to the AT&T Center as the Spurs paid tribute to the future Hall of Famer.
We never wanted to say goodbye. We just wanted to say thank you.
Kobe Bryant had an indescribable imprint on the game of basketball. Whether it was buying a pair of shoes, biting your jersey in a pickup game, or shouting, “KOBE!” while throwing some wadded up paper into the trash can, his influence was felt far and wide.
From Kobe hitting a 3-pointer over Roger Mason Jr. and doing the ‘big balls’ dance back up the floor, to George Hill stripping Kobe at halfcourt and knocking him on his ass for a fastbreak dunk. And all the battles in between.
So many memories. So much talent. Gone way too soon.
Rest in Peace, Kobe and Gianna. May your legacy and your mamba mentality live on forever.
And thank you.