I SEE KOBE.
Not the undefendable jumper or the unapologetic swagger. Not the 81-point masterpiece or reducing opponents to pieces. Not the championships or the Larry O’Brien embrace, with Shaq at his side and champagne on his face.
I see those moments too, but mostly I see Kobe shopping at Fashion Island. I see him getting coffee at the Lost Bean in Costa Mesa. I see him at Javier’s or at Mastro’s enjoying a meal, at Fletcher Jones picking up his new Maybach or driving along Newport Coast.
I see Kobe whenever I ride my bike on PCH, whenever I pass John Wayne Airport, whenever I see a sunset over Newport and realize we both shared that experience. Because Kobe Bryant, for all his accolades and global fame, was one of us.
He may have played in Los Angeles, but Kobe belonged to Orange County. This was home, where he raised his kids and ran his business. You can hardly go anywhere around here without seeing Kobe Bryant – and when he died almost one year and a million tears ago, on a quiet and deceptively normal Sunday morning, everyone felt it.
January 26, 2020 is burned into our memories, into our collective consciousness. We lost a friend and a neighbor, a father and a son. We lost so many other Orange County friends and families on that devastating day, too. One year later and it still seems unreal.
With apologies to Philly, Kobe is ours now. And he is still here, still with us, still smiling and inspiring us. You just need to know where to look.