Kevin Garnett recently retired, which sucks. I’m at the weird age where all of the people I grew up watching be the best at what they do are retiring. Derek Jeter, Tim Duncan, David Ortiz, Ray Lewis Peyton Manning, the list goes on and on, but somewhere at the top of that list in bold letters is my friend, Kobe Bryant. In my eyes, Lebron doesn’t hold a candle to him and if you disagree with me then you’re probably from Ohio or just didn’t watch Kobe play. I’ll defend Kobe’s legacy until the day I die because that’s what friends do.
Our friendship began years ago in a Benihana in Los Angeles. I’m pretty sure it was 2001 but I’m positive it was during the three-peat run. The Lakers were in the playoffs and Kobe and Shaq were running the world. My family is sitting at our hibachi table with a few other people when the guy sitting next to my Dad leans over and asks him “Do your kids like basketball?” My Dad said yes, because we did, and probably because he wanted to start a conversation about how he was coaching my 2nd grade basketball team and he had taught us a full-court press. We mercy-ruled 7 teams that year. Anyway, I digress. My Dad replied yes and the guy replies, “Well Kobe Bryant just sat down across the restaurant.”
He was sat at one of the non-hibachi tables near the bar and immediately I started searching my table for a pen and a piece of paper. All I can find is my little sister’s red crayon and I think a napkin and raced over to him. Let the record show that my older brother was too nervous to walk over. Anyway, I walk over to where he and a young Vanessa were sitting and politely asked for his autograph, nervous that I’d be shunned away due to my inferior writing materials. BUT HERE IS WHY WE’RE BEST FRIENDS.
Kobe smiled and said, “Ahh, we got a crayon, huh?” (I’ll never forget that. That is an exact quote) and talked to me for a realistic 30 seconds before I let him go back to dinner. Eventually my Brother sacked up and walked over and got his own, but the moment was mine. Anyway, here’s how we’re friends. And realistically I may be using the word, “friend” loosely here. But how do you define a friend? Not a best friend, not one of your boys, but a friend. If somehow you define friend as you remembering something that person did once, then I’m friends with Kobe. Because I know with every ounce of my being that if I was to walk up to Kobe and ask if he remembered the little kid at Benihana with the red crayon, he would remember. Then we’d rekindle our relationship and start the greatest reality TV show of all time, full of witty banter, tomfoolery, and subtle yet wholesome life lessons.
Kobe, if you’re reading this, I miss you.