Kobe.

I’ve been debating the past couple of days whether or not I was going to write something about the tragic events that occurred this past Sunday. I finally decided to simply because I knew this would be an outlet to help me release some of the emotions I’m sure we have all been feeling. It’s going to be raw & non-edited. If you see a grammatical error(s). It’s Ok, Trust me.

So here we go.

I was not a fan of Kobe Bryant (almost) his entire professional career. He was a Laker. I am a Sixers fan. No real mystery there, right? I could not stand when Kobe and the Lakers were set to play the Sixers. Kobe played on a different level from anyone else we have seen since MJ. I’m 36 years old. I saw the greatness of Jordan via VHS mostly. Remember those things? Kobe, I witnessed his entire career point-blank. I had my reasons.

I, of course, knew about Kobe prior to his Laker status. I didn’t live under a rock. I was well aware of the Lower Merion prodigy. We all saw Kobe take Brandy to the Prom. It was no secret to who he was. However, it wasn’t until Bryant was a Laker that I chose to really take notice.

I come back to say I was not a fan of Kobe most of his professional career because I was exactly that. There is nothing wrong with that. I often said, “Kobe Sucks” or “Screw Kobe” (Something along those lines). I simply did not like the man. I did not like a Philly boy being a lifetime Lakers fan, I didn’t like he didn’t embrace where he came from more often (in public), and I obviously didn’t like that he was a Sixers killer and seem to always take such enjoyment in it.

It wasn’t till towards the end of his career that I put things into perspective. Could some of my disdain be due to jealousy? Wait, a kid from Philly who went to LA to have huge success and become one of the best to do it, EVER. Sure, maybe a little. But, In all honesty, I realized it was more due to the respect I had for his talent. Why couldn’t he be a Sixer? Why does he have to be so damn good? Why does he always kill the Sixers? In reality, he killed EVERYONE. Not just the Sixers. He was an assassin out on that court. He wanted nothing but perfection out of himself and his teammates. I saw Kobe as a Basketball player, not just a Laker.

Kobe announced his 20th season would be his last. He officially announced his retirement, Coincidentally, he says, right before a road game in Philly. By that time my arrogance towards Kobe had dissolved and I had become more of an admirer of the hard-working, purist attitude, and a work ethic towards his craft like no other. Finally, as a fan, I got to sit back and appreciate the final season of the “Black Mamba”. A man who gave everything he had on that court whether it was his first game or his last. A man who knocked down 60+ in his final game. #MambaOut

Since his retirement. We saw Bryant achieve success on many levels. An Oscar winner for his poem turned short story animation, “Dear Basketball”. As well, becoming an author of children’s books.

Since his days on the court, We saw Kobe constantly with his daughter’s and his wife, Vanessa. Smiling ear to ear. Whether it was courtside of a basketball game or enjoying a day out at Disneyland. It was evident that Kobe was a proud family man.

Personally, I did not know Kobe.

I first knew of him as just a local basketball player.

I grew to have respect for the person he was.

I have an admiration for the person Kobe became.

God Bless, Mamba!

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Now, this where my words will be hard to put down without tears.

This past Sunday, in a horrific turn of events. A Helicopter crash claimed the lives of 9 people. One of which we knew was Kobe Bryant. When first hearing the news (confirmed) as a sports fan the impact was instant, it was strong, and it was heavy. It was a “know exactly where you were” type of news. We began to mourn.

As the day went on rumors began to fly. First, about how many were on board. Next, who else was on board. Then things changed from being a sports fan to being a father. News broke of Bryant’s 13 y/o daughter, GiGi, being on board as well and had passed. I broke inside. As a father what happened that Sunday is unimaginable. Even to try to think of what that feels like is unfathomable.

By days end, we found out there were a total of 9 people on board. By Monday morning, it was released Kobe, Daughter GiGi, John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah, and Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan were identified aboard the crash.

Alyssa, a teammate of Gigi’s and John & his wife Keri, parents of Alyssa. Christina Mauser, an assistant coach at the Mamba Academy.

As a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. I give thoughts, prayers, and my deepest condolence to the 9 lives lost and all family members and friends whose lives were changed on that horrendous day.

* Joey Sheeran
* Follow on Twitter: @Joey_EOP

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