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What Kobe Meant to Me

Rudy Hodgson

Being from Los Angeles, I can tell you firsthand that there aren’t many things out there that are as sacred to the entire city than Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe was the heart and soul of the Lakers. He was the face of Los Angeles for two decades and the relationship he had with Los Angelenos is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

You see, LA fans are stubborn. We’re so accustomed to greatness and success that we don’t expect it anymore. We demand it. And that’s exactly what Kobe was to the Lakers. Greatness personified.

Night after night, he was always the headline. Whether he dropped 81 points or hit a buzzer-beater to be victorious over a team in the fourth quarter, he gave his all every single night.

As a kid growing up in the area, you can immediately see the impact he has on the community. Kids going to school trying to emulate his moves, or kids screaming “Kobe!” as they throw a piece of paper into the trash can. It reminds me of just how connected we, as fans, get to these athletes that don’t even know we exist.

What it means for us to be able to save up money to go see them in person, witness their career highlights and milestones, and share these memories with loved ones.

I think of the time when I was nine, and I shook his hand outside of the Lakers practice facility. Or in 2010, when my father and I went to a newly renovated L.A. Live to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals at ESPN Zone.

To this day, I’ve never seen a crowd get as loud as that building after the Lakers claimed their 16th title at the Staples Center over Boston. Seeing your city win a championship is such a surreal feeling that I wish I could live every day on repeat. And thanks to Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles was able to experience that feeling five times over a span of 20 years.

There’s nothing quite like the relationship between Los Angeles and Kobe.

That’s why his farewell tour was so hard on Laker fans. And that’s why the news of his sudden passing is so hard on Los Angeles fans. Even though most of us never got the chance to meet or know him personally, it’s like saying goodbye to one of your best friends.

Everything is still so fresh and developing, that I personally just can’t put into words what all this feels like. I just think of how numb everything felt when I read the TMZ headline. As with several others, I refused to believe it.

And because of how fresh everything is, I’m going to end it by simply thanking Kobe for all of the memories, for giving Los Angeles everything he had, and for giving us a chance to raise a few banners in the process.

There will never be another Kobe Bryant. There will never be another GiGi Bryant. We will miss you both always.

My heart goes out to his wife, Vanessa, and his three daughters.

Rest in Peace Mamba, and Rest in Peace Mambacita.

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