Last shot, Kobe

I guess, this is my way of saying farewell to you.

*Flashback to January 22, 2006. LA vs. Toronto.

I remember staying in front of the TV on my parents’ room just as I was about to go out. At first I thought it was just a typical game day at the Staples Center. Nothing fancy, I’ll catch a few minutes and be on my way. That’s the case until the second half unfolded.

With the Lakers trailing by as much as 18, Mamba started dropping mid-range bombs and reverse layups against Bosh, Mo Pete and Mr. Walis himself, Jalen Rose.

Kobe shot 28-of-46 from the field, including 7-of-13 from rainbow country and 18 out of 20 from the charity stripe. He almost singlehandedly torched the dinosaurs from up north, scoring 27 in the 3rd and 28 in the 4th quarter on his way to the historic 81-point domination and the W for the home team.

That game further solidified his idol stature in me.

But now, things changed. Can we call a temporary halt to these now bittersweet memories?

On second thought, there’s really no stopping it. The impact of Kobe Bryant’s passing has created an emotional tear that will linger on, AND hurt, for a very long time.

The beginning of the year 2020 saw the Earth unleash its deadly furor upon us, puny earthlings. The ravaging bush fires of Australia which killed millions of wildlife. The seemingly never-ending floods that drowned parts of Indonesia. And for some local news, the imminent threat of the miniature mighty that is Taal Volcano.

Add to the dark times the turmoil between US and Iran (igniting fears of potential nuclear tantrums). There’s the downing of a Boeing 737 in Tehran where nearly 200 innocent people perished. Include the UK voting to exit the European Union (lol, just kidding!). And the dawn of the megakiller called Corona virus in Wuhan, China that’s been shutting down borders and created (face) mask hysteria from east to west.

Less than a week before the end of what seemed to be the longest January for unfortunate events, many presumed that the bad things finally took a detour.

Guess again, bitches. Enter January 26.

I woke up from an elusive sleep with a nonchalant message from my brother:

Patay na si Kobe.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? Nope. Impossible.

Enter Facebook. Newsfeed. Boom.

No it can’t be.

From news agencies, sport channels both local and international, celeb websites, sneaker groups, troll pages and every individual from your friend’s list – they all typed in Kobe... is dead.

I felt paralyzed. I was in total disbelief. I almost choke reading the first details of this horrific nightmare. It said helicopter crash. I wasn’t paying attention to that. My mind was treading on one thing, did he survive?

Crying felt like an instant morphine. I immediately scoured my secret stash to look for a Kobe memento. I feared I might have given my remaining cards as a Christmas gift. To my relief, thank God I found his Skybox Premium RC sitting safely inside an old card album. The next day saw him, pristine and protected by a magnetic card holder, standing tall in front of me at my work station. This will help ease the pain.

Enter nostalgia, again.

It was during my freshman year (circa 1997) that my addiction for NBA cards started plaguing my wallet (and my mom’s too). It was kinda fun because a handful of schoolmates were also into it. A local sneaker store or two in the city also fueled the hype. A pack of Fleer Ultra, UpperDeck and Skybox were selling at an average of a hundred bucks. Weekends saw me trooping an hour’s commute to Head’s to buy several packs and look for potential traders/scalpers for rare finds. Kobe and his teammate, Eddie Jones, were my ultimate prospects. Though I wasn’t too lucky to get Kobe inserts in my collecting quest, I made sure to save decent rookie cards to preserve for all eternity.

As a teen, I was fortunate to cop his Adidas KB8 signature shoes, c/o of my mom as a Christmas surprise. I best wore them with an over sized jeans and my favorite reflective green Adidas Originals shirt. Kobe’s TV commercial, Feet You Wear, during 1998 became one of my iconic favorites. The scene (and line) that struck most was his mention of “Fast Hands” as he did that speedy zigzag ball switch from his left hand to the right.

His first flight to Manila in 1998 as part of a five-day goodwill tour was simply phenomenal and electrifying. From his courtesy call  in full barong ensemble at the Palace with Erap, to his scrimmages with Manila street kids, Kobe showed finesse and heart for people from all walks of life. He would go back years later for one day events and charity programs.

I will single out his 2011 return because that was extra special. July 24 (my birthday!) saw Kobe together with NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul among others, playing against our own PBA top guns in Mark Caguioa, James Yap etc. at the Araneta Coliseum. It was a sight to behold as the whole stadium was filled with oohs and aahs and just complete love for Kobe and company. Watching it live was the closest I could ever get to Mamba.

I also collected SLAM magazines in honor of number 8. I never really read them but the pages were visual treats. His transition from jersey no. 8 to 24 was also to my delight because birthday = instant connection. Ugh.

*His original number, 8, came from his stint in the Adidas ABCD Camp, 143, whose digits add up to 8. The 24 on the other hand, was an ode to his jersey number back in Lower Merion high.

Man, those moments were sweet. And inspiring.

One thing I also credit him were his eternal words, “Just believe in yourself.” It made me realize that I can do anything as long as I put my heart and mind into it. (I ditched nursing to take on mass communication so I can write for a living is more than fair, I think).

Kobe was a man hailed (and hated) for his grit, tenacity and outstanding work ethic. It's pretty fun to see that  when Kobe starts to hear the boos when the game is on the line, that's the time he turns even deadlier, more clutch. He does this so well that he instantly transforms to love all the hate thrown at him. "KOBE YOU SUCK!" Y'all take  a handful of daggers and insane game winners from the conductor himself after that. 
*Special shout out to Paul Pierce and Sheed.

His Mamba Mentality was immensely embraced by athletes and non-athletes even outside the world of basketball, spreading in America and unto the global scene. His humanitarian works, including disaster relief, HIV/Aids, education and health support are but mere proof that he is not only an MVP on the court, but also a class act outside.

The start of 2020 may have been ruthless and gloomy. But I’m okay with it knowing that the basketball gods have now come face to face with a formidaBALL assassin. He’ll shoot the most difficult fadeaways into halos with the perfect swoosh. Dunk thunderous reverse 360’s on opposing angels with authority. And guess what? He still won’t pass the ball to God even on heaven’s court. And that’s exactly what I love about him.

A rightful heir to the hoops throne, Kobe Bean Bryant will never flinch.

Don’t worry, everyone who know you will never forget our ultimate battle cry:

*Shoots thrash


So, for the final time:

“At 6’6”, number 24 from Lower Merion High School and five-time world champion,
Kobe Bryant.”

Rest in power, idol.

#kobe #kobebryant #thankyoukobe #blackmamba #kb24 #lakers

*Images ctto.


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