This post isn’t going to be anime or music-related but because I have this space where I can write and express my feelings, I thought the blog would be a good place to do this particular post in. Normal write-ups will be back soon.
Alongside my love for anime, seiyuu, idols, music and general otaku stuff, there’s a side of me that I don’t necessarily express around this community. Not that I’m not proud of it or anything, I think because this blog is centered around a specific topic, I’d prefer to only stick with that. But the side I’m talking about is being an avid fan of sports.
In recent years, I’ve heavily followed different sports here in the United States, ranging from basketball to baseball and more recently football. Just watching the competitiveness of these sports and even following the things going on behind the scenes like trades and free agency; sports fandom certainly has become a major part in my life.
But today I wanted to talk about a certain, special person that essentially sparked my love for sports and the reason why I follow them extensively. I was also inspired by K at the Movies to write about sports, given that they recently did a nice post comparing characters from the anime Kuroko no Basket to real life NBA players. 🙂
Let me admit that my father was the very first person to introduce me to sports, specifically basketball. He showed me what the sport was about, how to play it, and I quickly became interested in the game. But what really caught my eye was the NBA (National Basketball Association). Like many kids, seeing professional players go head-to-head, competing at a high-level was absolutely fascinating. The fast pace, the sick dunks, insane drives to the basket; even though I was too young to exactly know what the hell was going on on the court, I was obsessed with it.
Among the players I admired like LeBron, KG, Pau Gasol, Baron Davis, Monta Ellis (…I’m a Bay Area kid, so it’s a given that a lot of the players I knew at the time were on the Golden State Warriors lol), there was one dude that I always became excited whenever I saw him. That dude was Kobe Bryant.
While I didn’t grow up in the times when Kobe and Shaq dominated the league with their three-peat dynasty, I was fortunate enough to become an NBA fan during the 2008-2010 period of time, when Kobe absolutely shined. I have the fondest memories watching him go against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals, and especially his battle against the Big Three (or… Four?) in Boston in 2010’s championship series. Seeing Kobe’s beautiful jump-shot form and him draining a shot in many defenders’ faces made me think he was the most awesome person on planet Earth. Sure, he was considered a gigantic ball hog and frequently made bad shot selections but… nine-year-old Al didn’t know any better. I thought he was amazing!
I admired Kobe so much that I wanted a #24 Lakers jersey so, so bad when I was a kid. I did get one from my parents and there’s a story about that jersey I’ll never ever forget about: I was in an after-school program and Pajama Day was coming up. And in my mind, I badly wanted to show off my Kobe jersey so I decided to wear it that day. Some people questioned me, asking “do you really sleep in that jersey?” and I just lied and said yeah. It’s honestly a boring story but man, when I wore that jersey in public, I thought I was the coolest dude in my after-school program.
Towards the mid-2010s, I started to veer off into other interests like internet videos or even watching baseball so I didn’t really get a chance to see what was going on with Kobe and the Lakers (thankfully a video from SB Nation explained the dumpster fire that happened during Kobe’s final playing years). But getting to see him in his final All-Star game in 2016 was a real treat and while I was mostly watching the Warriors complete their 73-win season, I tuned into Kobe’s final NBA game for a bit, just to see him score a whopping 60 points. Now that I think about it, just from that last performance alone shows how much of a legend he is.
Now, you might be asking why I’m suddenly talking about Kobe Bryant right now. Well, as you may have heard two months ago, Kobe suddenly and tragically passed away in a helicopter accident.
Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with a lot of death in my life but that day, January 26th, was the first time I genuinely felt a gigantic shock because of someone passing away. I remember the moment I found out, I was just absolutely stunned and even started to shake. I didn’t have the will to do anything for the rest of the day and the next day was even worse. Like, man, the very person who sparked my interest in the NBA and the amazing game of basketball was just… gone. One of the most influential athletes to ever live was suddenly taken away from us… the thought of that, still, is just unbelievable.
His influence on people, people even around the world, was off the charts. Kobe Bryant made people want to pick up a basketball. People wanted to be like the Mamba, people wanted to take that final buzzer-beater against the Suns, people wanted to have that electrifying personality. Kobe was the definition of “hard-work” and his attitude towards practicing and working non-stop has been something many people have implemented in their own regimens, careers and lifestyles.
But not only has he been an influence on the court, but off it as well. Kobe became fluent in Spanish and Italian. Kobe won an Oscar for producing his animated short film, Dear Basketball. Kobe supported women athletes so much, frequently attending WNBA games and even coaching young girls, especially his late daughter, to be the best they could be on the court. But most importantly, Kobe was a family man. He loved his family and even though he never had a boy like many fathers wish for, that didn’t matter to him at all. He loved having all daughters, saying “I could have five girls if I could, I’m a ‘girl dad'”. Basically, there are so many things Kobe did that we can take a lot of inspiration from.
It sucks. It sucks that he’s gone. Someone who was just starting to find success after his basketball career and just starting to see his daughter become an amazing basketball player… it’s just sad that it came to this devastating end.
As Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors recently said in a tweet, “2020 ain’t it”. And I completely agree. With Kobe’s passing and now this pandemic we’re all experiencing right now, the world has been tough recently. But like many people have been saying, we’ll get through this. I hope everyone’s doing okay and staying healthy!
Thanks for reading this post, even though it’s different from the usual stuff. This has been on my mind ever since Kobe passed and I just wanted to give my thoughts about it. And as I said, normal posts will be coming back soon. 😀