The sigh of Rob Pelinka, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, said it all just before the tribute to Kobe Bryant. He had been alone for a moment in between kiss and hug. He filled his lungs with air and then his cheeks swelled for a few seconds. His eyes were visibly teary. The moment of solitude lasted very little, since someone grabbed his arm and had no choice but to continue with the process of condolences. He knew what had come. The first game of the Angelian group since the tragedy was the first mass bath of the best friend of Kobe and godfather of Gianna, his daughter also deceased. There was no one in the stadium who knew the player better than him and that exhalation anticipated what was to come.
In general, the loss of the “Black Mamba” has caused a terrible wound to all sports fans, but if we approach the frame, we can perceive the details of the pain, the flashes that come out as gestures, looks or of memories from each person that Kobe made feel important, if only for a second. Like Zandra, who has been responsible for speeding up the passage of one of the stairs that go from the track level to the first section of the Staples. Two meters from their position, on December 29, Kobe and Gianna witnessed the last NBA game of their lives. A month later, a 13-year-old girl’s shirt and a Bryant’s Lakers team were next to two bouquets of roses in both seats. The stadium employee remembers how Kobe winked at her as a greeting. Or Pepe, a Mexican journalist who has been broadcasting Lakers’ games for more than 20 years on the radio. That same day, the escort shouted “friend!” From behind, and greeted each other effusively. Today, the journalist regrets not asking for a souvenir photo. Another journalist, Mark Medina, cannot believe that he was the last person to interview Kobe. It was two weeks ago to talk about what the future held. His voice cracks when he remembers it.
The anecdotes and the moments follow one after another in the bowels of the Staples Center. Walking through the outside of the rectangle of the track is to perceive a procession of team members who are not able to endure the emotion. That is why the pre-game between the Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers was unusual and extremely emotionally charged. The Oregon team player, Carmelo Anthony, was aware of what the atmosphere would be like and did not travel with the team for personal reasons. A few days ago, Kobe had confirmed that he would be there to see him play.
This decaffeinated environment for what the NBA standards are also left a music without the usual volume. The light begins to be dimmer to prepare the audience for the tribute. Pelinka sighs a second time. Darkness was made and thousands of phones lit up like stars. An organ with funeral dyes to which Usher put voice served to bristle the hair of the around 20,000 present. The song was accompanied by images with the reactions of different personalities from the world of sports at the time they heard the news. Then came the cello of Ben Hong and with him, the voice of the legend. The music of the main cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was the common thread of the words uttered by Kobe, rescued from interviews, public appearances or his own documentary. It’s like I’m there, with all of us. He talked about his values, his love for basketball, his ability to overcome adversity, hard work, rewards after sacrifice. The Lakers’ organization knew how to honor its legend and how to touch the sensitive fiber to those who adore it. There was more: his love and loyalty to the Lakers and his contribution so that women have better opportunities. “It’s my mission, I have four daughters,” he said. All its virtues were exposed in a video that lasted almost seven minutes.
After 24.2 seconds of silence in honor of the father and daughter bibs, Boyz II Men sang the United States anthem in a cappella. The players of both teams could barely hold back the tears. One of the most affected was Anthony Davis. LeBron James could not contain the emotion. He was the next guest to the tribute and in the center of the track he planted his immensity to remember all the victims of the accident. He then got rid of the paper in which he had written his speech. “I will speak from the heart,” he said. And this one started pumping with greater intensity.
“I take the night as a celebration,” he said to a crowd delivered. “It is a celebration of 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, of determination to the fullest. Today we celebrate the boy who came here with 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became the best father I have seen during the last three seasons. Today is a celebration, ”continued a“ King James ”that concluded with a“ keep living, friend. ”
Applause. Light. Music at reasonable volume. Presentation of headline quintets where the speaker introduced each Lakers player in the same way: “Coming from the Lower Merion Institute, Kobe Bryant!” The bustle begins. Follow the basketball. Life goes on