I’ve tried to write this several times but I keep breaking down, overcome by a wave of emotion quite unlike anything I have ever felt before. It feels unearthly, like something just isn’t quite right. I have no shame in admitting, I have been the type of human being who in the past just didn’t understand how people felt an emotional loss for a person they had never even met. Like many I grew up enjoying the work of Prince, thanks in large part to my parents varied taste in music, and yet when he passed away I felt no emotional impact. For non-basketball fans, Prince is the best comparison I can make to this and I’m sorry to all those who had shed tears for icons and celebrities before this. I understand it now.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s tragic deaths are different, and they have changed everything for me. Kobe Bryant is gone too soon and it’s a statement which feels too weird to write, let alone say aloud. In fact, I can’t say it aloud and I think that says it all.
I never met Kobe. I never saw him play for the Lakers and in fact I’ve never even seen a game stateside. Mock me if you will, but Kobe meant everything to me. This website you’re reading, only exists because a teenage boy fell in love with a basketball player. Double Clutch only exists because of Kobe Bryant. That is it, in the most simplest of terms.
My first memory of any NBA moment, was that lob to Shaq. It seemed ridiculous and truly out-of-this-world, but it wasn’t. It was real and it was the National Basketball Association. I had never witnessed anything like it.
That was it, from that moment on I was hooked and despite the “weirdo” remarks which often came with following ‘that strange American sport’ it became a passion. Which to be perfectly honest with you, is weird in itself, especially when I take into account the fact that I can barely put together a dribble and spent the majority of my teenage years throwing an egg-shaped ball around various rugby pitches across Norfolk and Suffolk, yet here we are.
The early 2000s were a time when watching the game in the United Kingdom was still an unenviable task and I like many, am thankful for the rapid expansion of the NBA as a digital sports league in recent years. Kobe Bryant’s global appeal played a large part in that.
When you look back at the early 2000s, the game has changed in almost every possible way, except there was always one constant. Kobe. A man who became known by just a simple four letter name, who transcended the world of sports. He is the reason I adore basketball and that is why I fight back tears writing this. He is the reason I have invested the last eight years of my free-time into this website you’re sitting on right now and a large part of my focused, reportedly ‘too mature’ attitude towards life.
I never wanted to make this a career or turn myself into a journalist, but through doing this I believe I have provided NBA UK fans with an outlet to share their opinions and voice their concerns. Double Clutch today is the result of countless hours, money, blood (not really), sweat and tears. As a team we have been committed to following this league and the players that reside within it, despite the obvious difficulties.
We fight the time difference every day of the week and we cram as many games into our evenings as possible, just in time to deliver that next weekly podcast. But with players like Kobe Bryant, it was all worth it. Thanks to Kobe, I have friends as far afield as Australia and Canada, people I simply would not have engaged with had it not been for Kobe and basketball. Many who write for this site have become my closest friends – not teammates or colleagues – friends.
I think I speak for the majority of the basketball world right now when I say, a large part of the sadness we are all feeling right now comes down to the fact that Kobe’s life wasn’t complete and whilst it is true that as a basketball player he had what many would define as the perfect career – one that created a hero for some and a villain to others – he wasn’t without his faults.
Kobe was a legend and a myth at the same time, an enigmatic figure who had events occur within his life that simply cannot be hidden under the rug, but now is not the time to dwell on human mistakes. We all make them, some worse than others.
The saddest part of this loss is that we were all just waiting for the next Kobe Bryant moment. Waiting for his real life to begin and at the end, the saddest end, he died as simply a father on his way to his daughter’s basketball game – both taken far too soon.
As for Gianna, I have no right to comment nor words to state, but I will say this; no mother should have to bury her child. My heart bleeds for Vanessa Bryant, who lost both her husband and daughter.
Then there’s the girls. Natalia and Bianka who lost their father and sister. And lastly, the most recent arrival to the Bryant family, Capri. A baby girl who will never truly know her father or experience a complete family. It is truly heartbreaking. I hope that one day she will know him as we have known him, as a loving father and one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Goodbye Kobe. I miss you already.
Matt Co-Founded Double Clutch in July 2012 and is the current Editor-in-Chief / Lead Designer. He is a Los Angeles Lakers fan, a Brandon Roy stan and a stalwart of the vibrant UK-based community. He never shuts up about the fact Damian Lillard follows us on Twitter, and has represented Double Clutch as an analyst on BBC Radio 5 Live.