Just over a week ago, we lost Kobe Bryant, his lovely daughter Gianna, and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash. The city of Los Angeles, NBA community and the world mourned heavily, as Kobe was such an influential human being. After hearing the news, the people of Los Angeles started pouring into the only place that made sense … Staples Center. You started to see flowers, candles, tributes, artwork, and more. I didn’t know how long Staples Center and LA Live would let this happen … I just knew I had to go.
The day after Kobe passed, I was in my feelings all day. It was a rough, rough day. I felt sick to my stomach on Sunday night, but after seeing what the fans were doing at Staples, I wanted to go myself. I began texting, trying to figure out when we can make a trip to Staples Center, which is located in downtown Los Angeles. I live in the San Fernando Valley, which is about 10 miles from downtown LA. However, due to the shitload of people that live and commute here, the drive in rush hour takes over an hour (another reason why Kobe chose the chopper usually).
After a day of back-and-forth, we decided to head to Staples Center at around 11pm that Monday night. After waking up at 5am for work and knowing I would have to do the same the following morning, I knew I would be exhausted … but I really wanted to go pay my respects. I needed to. Kobe deserved it. After work I got some yellow flowers and a card. Despite the fact of not knowing Kobe or his family, I felt the need to get a card and say something to the remaining Bryants. I can’t explain it. I threw on my white Kobe #24 and we took off to Staples.
The drive was smooth, amazingly smooth due to the hour. Now, whenever the Lakers play a home game … there is a buzz in DTLA. You can feel it when you leave your car. There’s an excitement in the air. When I got out of the car, it felt like a ghost town. Sure, people were there, and you saw plenty of Lakers gear, but there was no buzz. There was no excitement. No music. There was only a sadness that lingered like the fog that took the Mamba.
Once I arrived to Staples Center, which was still blocked off due to the Emmy’s, you could see the crowd of people filling up the plaza in LA Live, located directly across the street from Staples Center. There were still about 200 people there at close to midnight, which did not surprise me. What did surprise me is how I started to feel. I looked around the plaza and the tributes were amazing. The video board flashed a black-and-white photo of Kobe and Gianna, which was surreal to look at. It was only about 30-hours after the news and it was still very hard to comprehend that they were gone.
I started to feel like I was a zombie … like I wasn’t really there. I wasn’t at Staples Center mourning Kobe Bryant … HOW COULD I BE? I looked at each memorial thinking, “I shouldn’t be here … WE shouldn’t be here. How is this possible?”. I walked around the plaza and you could feel the sadness. I looked to my left and saw two people openly weeping. I started to read tributes/letters that fans wrote and I began to tear up. Kobe meant a lot to A LOT of people here in Los Angeles. There were huge white canvases people were writing and leaving messages on, so I made sure I left my name on the very top right corner .. the only place where there was room. Fans were also writing and tagging messages on the floor itself. There was a trash can with a hoop on it, surrounded by trash .. honoring the way we all say “Kobe” when we shoot the rolled-up piece of trash into the garbage. There were so many beautiful tributes on the floor, honoring the Mamba.
I stood there, soaking it all in. Finally, instead of feeling sad or sorrow, I started to feel proud. I felt proud to have been with Kobe throughout his journey, his ups and his downs. I was proud to be sad for the loss of this man, his daughter, and their friends. I felt connected to this city, more than I ever have in the past. Then, I started to feel sad again, and it was time to head home. The world doesn’t stop turning, but for a few hours, it wept for Kobe.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, which stands for “City of Angels” … and it never really hit home what that meant until right now. The City of Angels just gained nine more.