Story By Jacob Thompson
Jan. 26, 2020, will be a date always remembered as the day the basketball community lost a legend.
Here in Portland, Kobe Bryant, the basketball player, was the villain. Somehow it always seemed Kobe and his Los Angeles Lakers were destined to ruin Portland’s chance at gaining glory.
I grew up in a house that could not stand Kobe. Anytime Bryant was on TV, the sentiment that he was overrated, a ball hog, and he would never be better than Michael Jordan was never far behind.
Kobe was the villain and the few times I was lucky enough to be in the Rose Garden/Moda Center when the bitter rival Lakers were in the house, it seemed like all of Portland agreed. That idea, that Kobe was the bad guy, changed for me on March 3, 2014. Kobe wasn’t playing at the time, as he was still recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered the prior season, but he was in street clothes supporting his squad that was struggling without him. Somehow, the damn Lakers won despite not having Mamba on the court, but the memory has little to do with the game.
Back in those days, fans could go down to the players’ parking lot and try to get some autographs as the players left the arena. So there we were; me, my buddy Adam Archie and about 30 other Blazers fans trying to get autographs from players.
We got the Portland autographs we wanted and it seemed like all the players were on their way out, but the fans still hung around. Then it happened: Kobe Bean Bryant walked down the loading ramp. I didn’t know how things were about to go down, but I never could have imagined what happened next. The Portland faithful broke out in a MVP chant for Bryant. Kobe didn’t sign anything that night, but I will always remember that million- dollar smile on his face as he made his way towards the Lakers’ team bus, almost as if he knew he had won us over that night. We could boo him in the masses, but when he was 10 feet away, we could only bask in his glory.
This dude was the real deal, and even though his heroics often broke our hearts, we couldn’t deny that he was the best.