By Katareena Roska
My mother always messed up names.
She’d say Noel instead of Noah, Marky instead of Marcus, Evan instead of Ethan and so on.
The "murdering" of names got worse with the hundreds of sports stars that my dad adored. There were too many common names with too many unfamiliar faces.
I shared the same problem as my mom's.
The only star I always remembered however, was Kobe Bryant.
Dubbed the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time, the Black Mamba, and so many other nicknames—Kobe Bryant stuck out to me the most during my most formative years living in Los Angeles. It was a name I heard nearly everyday.
Kobe was one of the easiest talking points for any native Angeleno. When the weather and traffic got too boring, people moved on to the Lakers. From the 2000s to the 2010s, and well into his retirement in 2016, Kobe was the main event.
Even as a seven year old, I knew what the boys on the playground were referencing whenever they exclaimed “Kobe!” before tossing a paper ball into a trash can, mimicking a three-pointer and the roar of a Staples Center crowd right after. When kids asked me if I knew any basketball players, or sports players in general, my first answer was always Kobe Bryant.
I had swim practice on January 26, 2020. I was no athlete, but I woke up early that day to get ready. My dad walked into my room with a serious face and seemingly shocked at the breaking news article emanating from the glow on his phone.
“Kobe Bryant died.”
“You’re lying, stop joking,” I protested.
“I’m not.” He showed the phone to me.
“Yeah, but that’s TMZ. Who the hell are they to say Kobe died? They could get sued for fake news like that.”
“Scroll down. Check your phone. I wish it was a joke Casey.”
I arrived at swim practice effectively discouraged. Everyone had heard the news by the time I got there. We were all very quiet throughout the workout.
I wasn’t in the mood, to say the least. Just as I was about to give up on my last lap and leave the pool, some tiny kid with the biggest purple and gold goggles I’d ever seen piped up.
“Come on! Do it for Kobe!”
It seemed like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from. I hadn’t followed Kobe or basketball all that closely, but he was always there in the back of my mind as someone invincible. I was excited to see him grow old.
Kobe was the late night entertainment that my dad begged me to change the Disney channel for. He was a conversation starter for my dad and I, and how I learned about basketball.
The only thing that hit me harder the day I heard about his death, was his daughter’s. Gianna Bryant was only older than me by a mere month.
Kobe Bryant was the man on the TV my mom screamed “YES! LET’S GO CORY BRYANT!” at after he scored a point for the Lakers when victory seemed far from their reach. I’d correct her every time, but “Cory” Bryant became a running joke every time a Lakers game was on.
To every individual citizen of Los Angeles, Kobe means something special to them.
And despite the hundreds of points he scored and titles won, Kobe’s greatest achievement will always be his transcension beyond basketball and the legacy he left behind as a dedicated man defined by hard work and defying limits.
The NBA misses the Black Mamba.
The city of Angels misses Kobe Bryant.
I realized then that late January of 2020, that Kobe was more than the Lakers or a Hall of Famer basketball player.
I miss Cory Bryant.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A 15 year old high school sophomore, Katareena Roska is an aspiring writer who hopes to get more experience in journalism and media. Like any other teenage girl, Katareena’s a Swiftie at heart and a major fan of Phoebe Bridgers, but she loves all genres of music. Her hobbies and interests include art, fashion, film, reading, and boxing.