Please come back.
On Monday, Laker Nation gathered around the TV and with all eyes on the great Kobe Bryant, we would witness both his numbers 24 and 8 being immortalized into Laker glory.
As a kid growing up, Bryant’s impact was enormous. He was seen as God to little Armenian boys like myself playing basketball. He was the Michael Jordan of my generation and the greatest basketball player I have ever watched.
Every game I was in awe. Every game I could not fathom how he would make these impossible shots. And every night I stayed up, just to watch my favorite athlete of all-time dominate the game.
I cried when he was walking off the court in Boston when the Lakers got blown out of the NBA finals in 2008. I cried when he got his sweet revenge against the Celtics in 2010 and captured his fifth ring. And I cried the night he scored 60 points in the final dance of his career.
No. 24 and 8 will always have a special place in my heart. Like death and taxes, I could always rely on Bryant bringing it every night and giving it his all. Like family, I could always rely on Bryant to positively impact my mood even on the toughest of days.
My eyes were glued to the TV as Earvin “Magic” Johnson came out to acknowledge the greatness of Bryant. Johnson called Bryant the “greatest who’s ever wear the purple and gold.” I nodded in agreement. What Bryant brought to the Laker organization, will never be topped by any current or former player.
While watching the jersey retirement ceremony, it felt surreal. It felt like I was living out a dream. At first I thought, “Wow, Kobe actually retired.” I’m not sure why but it had not really hit me that he had retired from the NBA until that very moment. Then I thought, “What? They’re retiring BOTH of his jerseys?” The whole situation was very odd, especially when seeing my favorite players jersey’s raised up into the rafters.
Bryant, the player I grew up watching, was getting his jerseys retired by my favorite team. It did not seem real. It seemed like something out of a video game. It moved me to tears.
Ironically, the retiring of his jerseys took place in a game against the Golden State Warriors. The team Bryant tore his achilles against in 2013 and never seemed to recover from it. It seemed as if things had come full circle from that moment in mid April.
As the game went down to the wire and the Lakers had one opportunity to end the game, I was reminded of how Bryant could crush the hopes of an opposing team with just one shot. Just like how he did with his near impossible game winner against the Miami Heat and electric buzzer beater against the Phoenix Suns. And as Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew nothing but air at the end of regulation, I wished I could witness just one more Kobe moment.
One more moment that will make me go berzerk. One more moment that will leave me thinking “How in the world did he just do that?” One more moment to cherish and never forget. And one more moment from the greatest basketball player of my generation, and the greatest I will ever watch.