Some unique memories of covering Kobe Bryant
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.