There are few celebrity deaths that hit home with me. They hit me deep because I shared a special, personal bond with these great people of talent. The first that comes to mind is Biggie. He was an east coast brotha who died on the streets of LA, in front of the building where I went shopping for school clothes with my mom when I was a kid. Then Tupac, only four short years after we bumped fists in Hollywood when I was a fledging journalist on the hustle. And speaking of hustle, Nipsey bit to the core too, when he got gone. I never met the brotha, but I knew his tags in the hood. They were EVERYWHERE. I would see them and be like, that nigga Nipsey is putting in work!
Today, is a heartbreaker. For all Angelenos who bleed purple and gold, the man named Kobe Bryant was more than a Laker star. He was our favorite son who never left the house. He stayed and played to the pinnacles of his athletic performance so that he and we could enjoy the fruits of his labor: 5 NBA Championships!
I remember when he joined the team in 1996. Me and my roommate Ernest would each buy a BK Double Meal with a Sprite from Burger King, and a pint of Vanilla Fudge Häagen-Dazs on game nights and go home to watch our team go to work. We’d be so pissed if we were down in the third quarter against a team, we knew we should’ve been whooping the whole night. When the fourth quarter would come around, we watched Kobe do his thing: his graceful stride, his arrogant dribble, his powerfully artful finish from any spot on the court, but especially above the rim. No one could match him consistently.
I met Kobe on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. I was on a documentary crew filming Kobe at his office in Newport Beach, CA. After setting up, I went over to Starbucks across the street on a coffee run. I got in line, and who was standing in front of me but Kobe and Gianna? They stepped to the counter and placed their order. None of the employees were fazed by his presence, which told me he frequented that Starbucks often. I placed my order, and as he was about to leave, I got his attention and introduced myself. “I’m Lawrence with the crew that’s shooting you today at your office. Dang dog, I didn’t know you had so much going on!” Kobe had an office with MANY rooms, and in each room, there was a different project going on in some phase of development. “Well you’re going to learn a lot today, but you can’t tell anybody!” He reared his head back slowly and gave me that knowing look coupled with that famous grin. “Let’s go, G,” and he and his daughter walked out the door. Later on after the interview, I wanted to get a picture with him, but since I am always the professional at work, I didn’t press him when he said he had to leave. Now that I think about it, I should’ve hit him up at Starbucks in fan mode, so all I ended up getting were two shots from the balcony of his offices to show for my visit… and a call sheet.
The weather was ugly in LA today for a reason. It was ugly before I got the news about Kobe from a Facebook friend on Messenger. I then told my son and AirDropped the TMZ report from my phone to him. A slow unease gripped me for the rest of day. My sister was hysterical. I didn’t even talk to my mom today. Instead, I carried through with my plan to give my older son his first driving lesson and celebrate with pizza afterwards. I was supposed to watch the Grammys tonight with my girl, but the pizza got the best of me (To get an idea of my relationship with food the past few years, check out the blog posts Hospitalized, Hospitalized – Do, and Hospitalized – Redo) so I stayed home.
And this is what I wrote. Rest in power, KB.