I’m doing my best to come to grips with the stunning news that NBA Los Angeles Lakers’ great Kobe Bryant was killed tragically January 27 in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Nine people total were killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant played 20 years in the NBA. He was an 18-time All-Star, winning five NBA Championships, two Olympic Gold Medals, and an Academy Award.
He came into the NBA at age 17 right out of high school. Over the years I developed a unique relationship with Kobe, covering his Hall-of-Fame career regular seasons when twice a year he came to town, as well as many playoff games, NBA Finals and All-Star games.
I’ve been fortunate to have many great relationships with people, players, coaches, etc. We became friends, and as my son Larry, Jr. grew as a star in the NFL, we had many conversations outside of basketball.
This week I’m covering my 39th Super Bowl in Miami. It’s Kansas City vs. San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. I’m excited but tempered by this news.
When you have been doing what I do as a journalist, producer, radio talk show host and TV sports commentator for as long as I have been blessed to, you come across some incredible people along the way. Kobe Bryant was one of those remarkable people. As he grew, I watched his legend grow.
He was so gifted with the ability to speak his mind and share his unique feelings on many things. He had a universal appeal, a marvelous, charismatic personality and smile, and he was one of the greatest ever to play the game. To see him come to Minneapolis since he was 17 right out of high school and see him grow into a man, survive and overcome personal controversy, and rise above it was gratifying.
He became a much better person, and to see the bond he had with his family, his wife and four daughters, was powerful. Just last week Bryant was interviewed by CNN, and he said Minnesota’s Maya Moore and several other WNBA stars could play in the NBA. He had become an ambassador, a huge fan and supporter of women’s sports from soccer to basketball.
In fact, his daughter Gianna had fallen in love with basketball. Bryant was coaching her basketball team and they were on their way to her game when the helicopter, in clouds of marine layer and temperature issues, experienced trouble and crashed 30 miles outside of Los Angeles.
We all can relate to Bryant as parents being involved with our children, wanting to help teach your child and assist in their growth whether it’s in basketball or life—that’s what parents do. You do whatever is deemed necessary and put the rest through faith in God’s hands.
I’m still in disbelief, but I will truly miss and cherish our friendship. Kobe—what a guy, father, winner and champion.