#MambaOut Hurts A Lot Worse This Time Around

There are moments in life that are so unforgettable that you will never fail to recall where you were, what you were doing, or who you were with when they took place.

 

Yesterday, we experienced one of those moments.

 

I don’t even know how to begin to write out what I’m feeling. I’m sitting at my desk with literal tears in my eyes as I type on my keyboard. I recorded the Big 3 Roll Up this morning and couldn’t even get through it without choking up and getting emotional on air.

 

Kobe Bryant. Dead at 41. A 13 year old daughter perished with him. Seven other friends of his were also lost forever.

 

It just doesn’t seem real. It can’t be real. The Black Mamba was supposed to be invincible.

 

I woke up this morning at 5 am and for a split second I thought to myself, “Oh, man. That was a weird and horrible dream.” Reality sunk in more quickly than ever. To say that I am devastated would be an understatement. I’ve shed tears, I’ve been angry, I’ve sat in silence- not willing to believe what we all know to be the harsh reality of the situation.

 

A father… a FANTASTIC father… gone. A husband to a woman he’s been with since she was 17… gone. An icon that transcended sports… gone.

 

I’ve said this several times, but here we go again. I was born in 1990. I do not remember MJ outside of watching him on the Wizards or Space Jam. Kobe was that guy for me. The first year I remember watching basketball was the 1998-99 Season. I can remember the Lakers getting swept by the (eventual) NBA Champion Spurs.

 

Then, came the 3 peat. Incredible to think that happened two decades ago and hasn’t been done since. The dominance in that run was everything and through those years, I became a Kobe fan for life.

 

I think it was easier to gravitate toward Kobe over Shaq because I was a young kid like he was. He was flashy, he was arrogant, he was exciting. Shaq was pure dominance. Kobe was electric. You couldn’t miss a moment when he had the ball.

 

I can remember where I was for ALL 5 NBA Championships he won. I can remember where I was when he scored 81. I can remember where I was when he won an Oscar.

 

Kobe was my favorite athlete, but he was just so much more than that to me. It’s hard to really sit here and put into words what he meant to me.

 

I saw Kobe play live 5 times. He went 4-1 in those matchups.

The first time I saw him was in Atlanta with my buddy Cameron in 2011.

 

The next time was in Orlando with Cara in 2012.

 

Then, we went out to LA and watched him beat the Celtics a couple months later.

 

Next, back to Orlando to see him play with Dwight against the Magic.

 

Finally, we made the trip out to LA for his last game in 2016. That one was absolutely incredible, and I’ll cherish the fact that we went for the rest of my life.

 

If I’m remembering correctly, this is the fourth time Kobe’s made me cry.

 

I can remember crying when he got injured in 2013, thinking he may never play again.

 

I can remember crying at the ad that Nike put out after his injury. (Funny enough, I was in church when I saw this and I’m sure folks thought I was just feeling the service.)

 

I can remember crying at his final game when he hit the game winner. I was just so overcome with emotions. I quickly pulled it together and we celebrated all night.

 

But, yesterday was different. I haven’t been able to pull myself together like those other quick emotional moment. When I think about Vanessa or his daughters, I just break down.

 

I was in a VIP tent with my buddies at the Pro Bowl. We had a great weekend. The Roll Up crew only gets together so many times a year, so we truly try to cherish the time we can spend together. All of that feels like a distant memory now.

 

We all took off after we got the news. Just didn’t feel right sitting in a game moments after hearing that news. I sat in silence for much of the drive home. Flipped on ESPN2 and let it play over the radio for the rest of it. I was doing okay until my wife got home with my daughter. Being a parent puts everything into perspective. My heart aches for Vanessa and her girls. I am distraught over Gianna being on that helicopter as well.

 

There is one sports poster that hangs in my house. As big of a sports guy as I am, my wife just won’t let me make the place look like a man cave. But, of course, the poster is Kobe’s game winner against the Heat from 2009.

 

I mentioned this on this morning’s Big 3 Roll Up episode: As much of a Kobe fan as I am, my wife is that big of a Vanessa Bryant fan. Vanessa doesn’t post on Instagram without my wife forwarding it to me or asking me if I saw what she and the girls were doing. We talked about them weekly.

 

Vanessa is Mexican and so their family loved the movie Coco. My daughter has started her day watching that movie more times than she hasn’t over the last year.

 

Their family loved Disney and they were always at Disney Land. When we went there a couple years ago, my wife kept a watchful eye out, just praying & hoping that he might be there with his family. We go to Disney here in Orlando all the time. We loved seeing the pics of their kids just enjoying the park. Their money, status, fame… none of that mattered. They were kids just having fun at the happiest place on earth. Their times there were so easy to relate to.

 

 

Talk about corny, when I was 21 and the Lakers won the 2009-10 NBA Championship, I had this hat made before Game 7 and put it on immediately after the buzzer sounded.

 

I just bought Mamba Mentality; a coffee table book that was delivered to my house two weeks ago.

 

My guy Logan just sent me a pair of Nike Kobe sneakers last week that I probably won’t even wear now because I don’t want to ruin them.

 

I bought my wife (then girlfriend) a Kobe jersey for Valentine's Day one year because we were going out to LA to see him play the Celtics the next month.

 

I used to wear a Kobe shirt every Christmas because he always played then.

 

I counted down my daughter's birth with his pics.

 

Kobe was so much more than an athlete to me. He was my hero as a child. His dedication to craft is something that inspires me today.  His love for his family and his daughters is the kind of love that I want to have for my wife and children. Loving Mamba was sort of a way of life in our family. My daughter is just over a year old. She doesn’t say much, but she’s said, “Kobe.”

 

When we went to LA to see him play against the Celtics, we took a trip over to Madame Tussauds wax museum. Of course, this was the best (and funniest) pic from our time there.

 

I don’t know what all these rambling thoughts mean. I don’t know who will care. I don’t know how to wrap this up, but I’ll try with one more thing I said on the pod this morning:

 

What makes Kobe different is that a lot of times when people die, they become so much better in death than they ever were in life. We idolize them more in death. But, that’s not the case for Kobe. He was this great in life. It’s Kobe, so nobody makes a big deal over it, but the fact that he won an Oscar two years after he retired from playing basketball is just insane. He reset the standard. His greatness wasn’t magnified in death, it was in life.

 

The first time he said #MambaOut, it stung to lose the greatness of the basketball player that was Kobe Bryant.

 

This time, #MambaOut means losing the greatness of the person, husband, and father that was Kobe Bryant. This sting is going to hurt a lot deeper and a lot longer.

 

-TJ

 

We talked about Kobe on this morning's Big 3 Roll Up Podcast. You can check out the episode here:

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