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‘The Loss of Kobe Bryant Cuts Deep and in Layers:’ L.A. Taco Remembers L.A.’s Black Mamba

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he loss of Kobe Bryant still cuts deep and in layers. 

Yesterday, Kobe would have turned 42 years old. Now that some time has passed to process the reality of a Kobe-less Los Angeles, some of us may have had more profound reflections.

In the words of the activist Alicia Garza, “Our grief is allowed to be complicated *and* we can make sure we hold space for all of it and all of us. Lots of folks are hurting today. Be gentle with yourselves and each other.”

Today, on Kobe Bryant Day, L.A. Taco remembers and honors him.  

Mariah Castañeda, Politics Editor at Large

For me, Kobe was a constant, he signed onto the Lakers a year after I was born, so I didn’t know a world without him being a God on the courts until 2016. No matter where I lived or moved to, Kobe would still be reliably dominating the game. Even when I moved to Irvine for two years for college, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kobe Bryant sometimes practiced at UC Irvine’s gym early in the morning. I grew up hearing fireworks go off after every Laker’s victory.

...Kobe Bryant inspired and gave hope to every community I come from.

Going to school during the Black Mamba era meant “Kobe” got yelled during recess games of shooting hoops. Students and adults alike proudly repped #24 because Kobe made us proud, and he was ours. Then, of course, there are the sexual assault allegations that will forever be a stain on his history. As a survivor myself, I’ve struggled to grapple with this, and I still don’t know how to reconcile with all of it. But I do know that Kobe Bryant inspired and gave hope to every community I come from.

Memo Torres, Director of Partnerships

Sports fans have sports buddies, the foos you call up with last-minute tickets to Dodger Stadium, meet at the bar for a Laker game, play in the same fantasy league forever, and do nothing else but continually talk smack in the group chat. Crying would be the last thing anyone would confess to, but the Sunday that Kobe passed, following the multiple “Kobe is dead” texts from them, none of us cared to hide it. “I’m crying, bro,” “WTF?! His death can’t be real.” “My whole youth just died, man!” One friend even shared, “I’ve been crying, and my lady is kinda like WTF? She don’t get it, man.” But we all did. 

My daughters will never understand what they lost with the passing of Gigi. She was only with us for a short time, but trust I’ll make sure my kids will remember her.

Gigi’s loss is what hurts the most. Not only because she was young, full of promise, and determined to carry her father’s legacy forward, but also because the next generation of Daddy’s girls were going to get their very own personal Mambacita. My daughters will never understand what they lost with the passing of Gigi. She was only with us for a short time, but trust I’ll make sure my kids will remember her. She was barely starting her game, but in all our hearts, Mambacita was already winning. 

Kobe, my kids, only saw you as number 24, but to my friends and me, you’ll always be number 8. Love you forever, Black Mambas. We already miss you two. RIP

Alex Blazedale, Publisher

Kobe,

I trace my daughter’s love of the game directly to you. She would be the first to tell you that she is not a great athlete. Her many talents lie in other areas, and while she’s always enjoyed playing sports, there’s only one that she’s really stuck with and ever really cared about, and that’s basketball. 

As a young parent, you expose your kids to different things and see what sticks, and with my daughter,, I showed her that she loved the Lakers. When you and Pau and the rest of the team earned your championship runs, she would wear her Kobe t-shirt and a purple headband, and cheer as loudly as anyone in our TV room. I will never forget those memories and the joy you brought to both of us. 

I think she truly fell in love with you and the Lakers when I surprised her by taking her to a game when she was around five years old. We were supposed to go to a classmate’s birthday party and the whole time we were driving to Staples. I had suggested she wear her Kobe T-shirt to the party, and when we walked out of the car towards Staples Center, she marveled at what she saw, "Look daddy so many people have Lakers clothes here!"

She still didn’t realize where we were until we started walking to our seats. We were in the tunnel. The lights were shining, and they announced number 24, Koooooobe Bryant! Her eyes lit up. Her mouth opened wide, and she jumped for joy. "Daddy, is this the Lakers game? Is that Kobe?!" She pointed as Kobe ran onto the court. You were an unmistakable icon; a hero that lived in the flesh.

We cheered and marveled at Kobe and the rest of the team's athleticism and passion. We sat next to a man from Japan who told us he had traveled from Tokyo to watch Kobe Bryant play in person. He told us we were lucky to live in Los Angeles and see Kobe, and we agreed.

Leila’s Kobe T-shirt was one of the thousands in the Arena that day, but I’m pretty sure hers jumped up and down the most.

A year later, after one of her first rec league basketball games, I told her she reminded me of how Kobe played when we saw him live at Staples Center. Her pride and joy in that comparison were so evident that the nickname "Lil Kobe" stuck.

Because of Kobe‘s allegations and charges in Colorado, I sometimes worry that I was giving her the wrong person as a role model. I wondered if other things would come out in the future and that she would one day be ashamed of her idolization and nickname. That turned out not to be the case, and while your legacy is complicated, the feelings when you died are not. Our entire house was rocked with deep sadness, and the mourning will continue for a long time. Like our friend reminded us at Staples Center that night a decade ago, we're lucky to have Kobe in our city and our lives.  

This post was originally published in 2020. 

Photos by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.

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