Farewell Kobe, farewell childhood

Column by Aaron Peck, Videographer

I turned 25 years old in May and ever since, I’ve told myself, “I’ll never be young again.” To me, 24 years old is the last year you can consider yourself young, because at 25 you’re halfway to 30.

The only thing I really have left of my childhood is Hulu reruns of “Hey Arnold!” my Space Jam pillow case (that I still use to this day) and a couple of my old favorite remaining NBA players that I like to root for, one of which is currently going through his farewell tour that passed through Memphis, Tennessee Feb. 24. 

Kobe Bryant has easily been one of the most recognizable figures in sports since his rookie season in 1996, and when he finally says goodbye to the game of basketball on March 25, I’ll all but officially be saying goodbye to my childhood.

I was 6 years old when Kobe came into the league and all of my sports knowledge came from chants, cheers and regurgitated facts that I heard my father say. Because of that, I was mostly exposed to the Eastern Conference. 

Players like Reggie Miller of the Pacers, Patrick Ewing of the Knicks and, obviously, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls dynasty were always on our TV.  If it weren’t for Shaquille O’Neal starring in the cinematic classic “Kazaam,” where he played a rapping genie that lived in a boombox, it probably would’ve taken several more seasons before I discovered who Kobe Bryant was on my own.  Because of “Kazaam,” I fell in love with Shaq and instantly began watching more Lakers games. 

Just a few years later, Michael Jordan announced his second retirement, ending the Chicago Bulls dynasty and catapulting the new 1999-2002 version of the “Showtime Lakers,” led by Kobe and Shaq, into global stardom.

While I’ve never been a huge Kobe fan, I respect the legend.  His stats speak for themselves as a generational talent.  I don’t believe there will ever be another Kobe Bryant.  The days of high-flying “Afro Kobe” are long gone, and you would be  hard-pressed to find someone who has the “win at all costs” attitude that he lives by. 

Kobe isn’t afraid to make enemies out of his own teammates if that’s what it takes to get their best performance. Just ask Sash Vujacic, whom he elbowed in the chest at practice, telling him to “get his hands off” of him, in order to toughen him up.

Kobe started the game against Memphis by hitting his first shot, a three from the top of the key.  He then followed that with three straight misses, one of which was a wide-open layup driving down the baseline.  He followed his cold stretch with vintage Kobe moves that made nostalgic viewers like me wide-eyed and in awe.  He posted up his defender and hit back-to-back turnaround jumpers from about 20 feet out.  He was all but invisible for most of the game after that, playing with a dislocated index finger on his shooting hand; however, he did end the game hitting his final 3-pointer, the perfect ending for a fading star on a young team.

Long gone are the days of the Walkman.  Long gone are the days of downloading music off LimeWire using dial-up Internet.  Long gone are the days of me struggling to flirt with girls on AOL Instant Messenger.  And soon enough, long gone will be the days of Kobe Bryant as an NBA player.  Farewell childhood and farewell Kobe.