Agustin Ibanez Baldor
In middle school, I didn’t know anything about sports or pop culture in general (immigrant parents) and I was kind of teased about it. Kids would ask me questions about pop culture and I never knew the answer. One time they asked me who Kobe played for. I said the Lakers. Even back then I and everyone knew. There was no escaping his reach.
Michael De Leon
Having covered the San Antonio Spurs first as a beat reporter starting in 1999 and then for my blog, Project Spurs, I was lucky enough to cover Kobe through several regular-season games and many playoff series over the years, so I have a ton of memories to pull from, especially seeing the Spurs finally get over the hump in their rivalry with Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers as they swept them in the 1999 Western Conference Semifinals. But of all of the rivalry games I’ve seen in person, the games I’ve seen as a fan and getting the chance to interview him, the one memory that will always be stuck in my memory as one of the many times the Lakers ended the Spurs’ playoff run and Kobe was on the sidelines after the game consoling a young Spurs fan who was crying and telling him it would be ok, that he had a great team and that they would be back. That moment of grace and humility made me a fan from then on.
My favorite Kobe memory is from when I was a kid. I went to school with his daughters, and when he had his leg injury and couldn’t play he would sit with his little scooter alongside the cafeteria line and give fist bumps to all of the kids walking by. He was a super genuinely nice person and was always willing to give knuckles and high fives to the kids and I think that moment sums up that side of him perfectly!
Kobe’s Final Game Vs. Jazz.
We can point to many memorable moments over Kobe’s career – multiple championships, final shots, 81 vs. Toronto, and scoring 62 against Dallas in three quarters. His final game against the Jazz was like watching a highlight reel of his entire career in one night. It was an electric Staples Center crowd that got to witness a legend for the final time. Going out to Kobe chants and dropping 60 points was a perfect sending out. Bryant scored 38 of his 60 in the second half to will the Lakers back and cap off a win on his final night. A lot of Kobe moments were not in the Twitter era, and I can’t imagine being on Twitter during the night he scored 81, or capping off three straight titles. This is a moment we were able to share together. Simply fans of the game, sharing our commentary on a legend’s final game that ended in a perfect way.
My favorite Kobe memory would be his performance in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal game vs Spain. The USA’s “Redeem Team” was looking to take back its place atop the basketball world but they found themselves in a tightly contested game in the fourth quarter. That’s when Kobe took over. He scored 13 points in the final eight minutes and showed the world that he was one of the baddest players in the game.
Kobe Bryant was a sensation since I can remember. I still vividly recall Bob Costas’s amazement during the 1998 All-Star game in Madison Square Garden, when Kobe threw a fake behind-the-back pass to himself and scored:
I’m not sure if he traveled there, or if he had some kind of violation. Because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that move before. (Bob Costas, NBC)