Looking back

Some unique memories of covering Kobe Bryant

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I first met Kobe Bryant in person during NBA All-Star Weekend in NYC in February 1998. The hype surrounding a potential matchup up between Kobe and Michael Jordan was at a fever pitch back then. The matchup dominated news coverage.

February 8th, 1998 was the first of Kobe's 17 All-Star Selections. Even way back then, the stories were circulating about how serious Kobe took preparation, from film study to practice was taking on an iconic status. Some teammates had to actually calm Kobe down during a bus ride during an NBA preseason contest as he was too intense and hyped up on the bus ride.

At a ripe age of 19, Kobe was the youngest All-Star in the History of the League. Throughout the game, you had a sense that a torch was being passed. Much like Dr. J in his farewell tour in 1987 was passing off the baton to Michael Jordan, MJ some twenty years later on that stage while collecting his 3rd All-Star MVP award, was laying the path for the young 19 year old phenom at MSG.

I went from covering the Jordan Bulls in Chicago in the 90's, to then relocating with our radio network to Los Angeles, just in time to witness the Kobe/Shaq "three-peat" from 2000-2002. The debates of "which combo" were more explosive, MJ and Pippen or Kobe and Shaq reigned the sports airwaves. It was rare to ever catch Kobe where he didn't want to do anything except talk about basketball. For me, after dozens and dozens of exchanges, there was only one distinct time, as we got into a conversation about his love for a movie Breakin 2 Electric Boogaloo. This was a passionate, spirited debate and one of Kobe's favorite movies. He talked about how one day his was going to make a follow up to that movie. Instead, he captured an Oscar for his animated masterpiece "Dear Basketball" two years ago.

As I sit here reflecting on Kobe, it's remarkable how quickly those years all went by, and how tragically the events transpired today. I have no doubt up in Heaven, there's a rack of basketballs and Kobe is in a gym somewhere, outworking everyone, staying and shooting for two hours after a practice.


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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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