27th January, 01:57 am: I was in bed, unable to sleep as usual and browsing YouTube when I received a text message from my best friend, Tenzing Passang. His text read, “Kobe” with a sad face emoji. Something inside me sank deeper than the Titanic. Unconsciously, I began repeating out loud, “No, no no, no! God please no!” Another friend, Pallavika texted at 02:07 am. Her text said, “Saw the news? Kobe Bryant no more. I know how much you liked him.” My hands trembled as I held my phone and began clicking on links after links related to the terrible tragedy that killed my hero, his 13-year-old daughter and the Altobelli family. For a moment I didn’t know what I was feeling. In that moment if I was sure of one thing, it was that — this, was personal.
In the 4th standard, I began taking a keen interest in basketball. Internet was a thing of the future then but it was a time when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA scene and their story resonated far beyond, even up to the Himalayas. I made up my mind, I would work really hard to land myself a spot in the school basketball team. In the sixth standard, the school coach noticed and by the time I was in the 7th standard, I had made it to the team!
Meanwhile, the young Kobe Bryant had been making waves in the NBA with another star, Shaquille O’Neal. They were called Batman and Robin and that itself struck me with fascination! Even from the distance, I knew those were exciting times and a time when history was being written. The world wide web was something that needed a phone dial-up connection and we stored data on floppy disks. I began spending all my pocket money at internet cafes to look up and store images of Kobe Bryant.
I was about 13-14 years old when Kobe Bryant had become my hero, my god, my everything and I lived every day to worship the man.
The internet will tell you everything about the legend. His career, his family life, his dedication and the beautiful life he lived by helping everyone who believed in their dreams and was willing to work hard. I am here to tell you my story about the man who was literally my first personification of dreams and ambitions; a person who was remarkably gifted and who inspired the entire world over generations becoming a name that needs absolutely no introduction.
Here’s my Kobe Story
#01: MY THEORY WITH THE BIRTH DATE: So when I began looking up on Kobe, the first thing I found was his date of birth. He was born on 23rd August, 1978. I was a teenager, it was the beginning of Y2K and basically nobody needed logic as much as they do now and I came up with theories. In my puerile best, I began telling my classmates and friends that anyone born on the 23rd of a month is destined to achieve great things in life and I always gave the example of Kobe. Its been years now and I still walk around with this juvenile logic and high five people born on the 23rd of a month telling them, “Kobe’s born on the 23rd as well.” (NOTE: I am born on the 23rd too)
#02: I STOPPED TALKING TO MY FRIEND, UMI IN SCHOOL OVER THE NUMBER 8 JERSEY: In 2001, the senior player in the team, who wore jersey number 8 graduated and the number was open to the rest of the players. I had been wearing jersey number 5 but really wanted to change to 8 to show my loyalty and love for Kobe. However, my friend Umi was a Kobe fan as well and she wanted the number as desperately as I did. The coach ended up giving number 8 jersey to Umi while I sulked and didn’t speak to her for a while. Umi and I went back to being friends again because we realised that in the end, our love for the game and Kobe Bryant was no reason to be glum and argue. In fact it was a great moment when we realised the impact he had in our lives and that, two fans are always better than one!
#03: I LIKED A BOY BECAUSE HE WAS A BASKETBALL PRODIGY: High school crushes are something that everyone looks back at and laughs about. Since I was in an all girls’ boarding school, we never had much opportunities to interact with the opposite sex. However, every inter-school basketball tournament gave us a moment to watch other players in action and I remember distinctly that I developed a teenage crush on a boy from another school only and only because he was extremely good at the game. I’d even confessed to my close friends that when I would be old enough I’d only date men who’d play basketball like Kobe! I guess this is why I am still single.
#04: I HAD MSN EMAIL IDs AFTER THE LAKERS: Back in the days, everybody used MSN messenger and had hotmail email ids. Until, I went to college, I actually had two email ids that I created to show my commitment towards Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers. I’ve forgotten what it was exactly but it was something like-
#05: I WANTED A KOBE BRYANT TATTOO
I always knew when I’d be old enough I’d get tattoos and I’ve done exactly that. In school I’d told my friends and everyone that one day I would get a tattoo of Kobe Bryant’s jersey number to honour the man for his insane talent and the inspiration he’s been to me. I haven’t got it yet but I think it’s time to commemorate the legend and as a mark of respect, have the number 24 inscribed on me forever.
The accident that took away Kobe and Gianna Bryant along with the Altobelli family members is nothing but cruel. It’s unfortunate,unfair and unjust but one of the many things that I have learnt from Kobe Bryant is that the world will never be fair and just and you will keep falling down. That is when you need to get back up and continue doing what you do. The aggression he displayed in the games even when his team was down and out is a lesson we can all imbibe in our lives. His confidence balanced perfectly with his charm and showmanship and most of all, his generosity in passing on the love and the value of the game to everyone across the globe is a story that the world will never forget.
Although I have tried to keep a light tone on this post, I mean no disrespect to any Kobe fans. It’s an attempt to portray the role he played in my life and why his loss is beyond shattering for me. My heart goes out to the entire Bryant and Altobelli family whose loss is unimaginable. May god give them the strength.
I would also like to thank all my friends and family who never mocked or laughed at me through all the years of my Kobe obsession that I lived with and while I was almost disconsolate some hours ago, your texts and messages made me see that this isn’t about me and my sadness. It’s about the influence that the legend, Kobe Bryant has had on everyone. These were some of the messages I received:
I will never forget this morning when I typed “Kobe Bryant” on the google search bar and news related to his chopper crash appeared on my screen while the Wiki page appeared a few links below. The visible sentences read: Kobe Bean Bryant (August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) WAS an American professional basketball player…. He went from IS to WAS, just like that and I couldn’t contain myself. I wept! The loss has been too close, too painful….like the poet, Rohan Chhetri says, “intimate, it hurt you in a private place.” Yes, that’s exactly where it hurt!
He was a big part of my life and now that I am older, his role in my life means more than just hanging posters on my walls and creating absurd logics. It’s remembering the life he lived and telling his story to people who’ll listen to me.
It’s an understatement to say that he touched many lives… His legacy will continue to change lives and many great players will come and go but there will always be only ONE Kobe Bryant.
REST IN PEACE.
(The article first appeared in: https://shioriandherstupidmouth.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/the-kobe-bryant-story-of-a-sikkimese-fan/)
(Views expressed are personal. The author can be reached at email@example.com; Twitter: @shiori2305)