The day’s name is honors Bryant every year in August on the 8th month and the 24th honoring his jerseys.
Picture this…a cool early morning in Texas, the Dallas skyline drapes a backdrop to an amazing city. A chubby black kid (me) couldn’t even sleep the night before this perfect morning. He was so excited while holding a bag with a basketball still in the box and a sharpie inside, see, the chubby kid was going to meet his hero, Shaquielle O’neal!
He was larger than life in movies throughout his childhood. His father received a tip from a friend who knew what time the Lakers were leaving and informed the father to get a basketball and “bring lil man he might be able to get the big man’s autograph!”
The team would always stay at the 5 star historic hotel The Adolphus, the friend ran the garage and could garuantee that the team’s bus would be arriving early.
“We have to get there early, early” my father says, noting that we could easily get more autographs than everyone else.
While no one was allowed inside the garage the crowd of people would have to wait outside. The friend told the pair no “you’ll wait inside closer to them when first exit into the garage.” My face had a tinge of red from smiling so hard both dimples were in full effect. We waited and waited until the players started to drift out. They see a crowd of fans at the exit, then suddenly me.
These legendary athletes one by one: Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox who joked about me having the “VIP spot.”
Then after a small gap in time I see him a tall figure walking towards, it’s him the “big man,”
I stepped up, hoping he would see me standing, barely holding back my excitement, “Mister O’neal could you sign my basketball” without looking up he said “sorry my hands are full” with a small duffle bag and walkman in the other and he went on his way to take a seat on the bus.
If you could hear glass break,that was me. It hit me hard, tears wanted to well up but I fought it.
At that point I just knew, Kobe would do the same as he came rushing out with two bags on his back holding another bag in one hand and a stack of books in the other and apologize to all of us.
He looked up to see the frustration on everyone’s face but myself looking up at my father disheartened and boarded the bus. I did what I always did at that age shrugged slowly as to seem like I wasn’t hurt and wanted to go get something to eat.
We heard the bus start up and slowly started to pull off, suddenly the bus made an abrupt stop, the doors flew up and out jumped Kobe. Bryant rushed over to me first, he knelt down and asked if he could still sign my ball…and gave a sincere apology to me face to face (respect) he then stood up and reached around to shake my dad’s hand looking into his eyes and man to man apologized to him as well.
“I just couldn’t leave lil man hanging.”
Number 8 moved up on the list
That was the day a giant saw this chubby kid. I celebrate Kobe today and mourn his passing nearly everyday. Kobe was not only one the greatest to play the game and he was just an all around good person.
Rest well Mamba…