My Kobe story: A personal account of Kobe Bryant’s final game in Indianapolis

Local News

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant smiles to the crowd during a ceremony before Bryant’s last NBA basketball game, against the Utah Jazz, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Every basketball fan has one: a memory of Kobe Bryant. After his tragic passing on Sunday, hundreds of these stories have surfaced, serving as reminders of the incredible impact one man had on the world. Many more haven’t — being left to cherish by the fans, friends, and family who shared a moment or a memory with the legend. 

My brief interaction with Kobe Bryant doesn’t compare to the interactions he had with so many. It’s not even close. But this story isn’t about me. 

Before joining the team at Eyewitness News, I was lucky enough to work for the Indiana Pacers. My job? To get post-game interviews with the opposing team’s players. On February 8, 2016, that meant Kobe Bryant. 

A sports reporter’s job is to remain objective. Keep your special edition jerseys at home, folks. No cheering in the press box (yes, even when your team hits the buzzer-beater). Don’t get starstruck when you’re interviewing the greatest athletes in the game. On February 8, Kobe Bryant’s final game in Indianapolis, I did a lousy job of that.

After all, it was Kobe Bryant. 

I remember the cheers, a stark contrast to the boos typically showered on opponents in Indy. I remember the crowd, on their feet and clad in purple number 24 jerseys. I remember the chills when, “Thank you, Kobe” bellowed through Bankers Life Fieldhouse, louder than any cheer for the Pacers that night. I remember watching Kobe run through the tunnel for the final time and feeling compelled to take a video. I wrote a simple message: thank you Kobe.

After all, it was Kobe Bryant. 

Player interviews usually meant a swarm to the locker room, reporters gathered around the league’s biggest stars maneuvering for a decent camera angle. But not that night. The moment was bigger; Kobe was bigger. Kobe sat on a podium in a makeshift press conference, chatting about everything from the game to his memories in Indianapolis. As Kobe left the room, a coworker looked at me and said simply, “That was cool.” And it was.

After all, it was Kobe Bryant. 

My interaction with Kobe was nothing special. Except that it was. Because if there’s one message that’s resonated over the past 24 hours it’s that every interaction with Kobe was special. Every little boy yelling, “Kobe!” as he rattles a ball through a metal hoop. Every fan who watched magic happen when number 24 took the court. Every small-town Indiana girl with a dream of being a sports reporter who sat in a press room interviewing one of the greatest players to ever play. And so, so many more. They were all special because Kobe’s legacy was bigger than me, bigger than you, bigger than basketball. 

After all, it was Kobe Bryant. 

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(This story was originally published on January 27, 2020)

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