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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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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