As you know I don't really belong anywhere, I am the epitome of Theresa May's Citizen of Nowhere and while I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my permanent imposter syndrome, class and cultural dislocations' big gift, maybe during my time in Los Angeles, more than anywhere else, I felt happily distracted and free-est.
I made such great friendships in Los Angeles, often over the Lakers, the games, the play-offs, the championships. The Lakers were the whole towns' team back then. Kobe Bryant's death has brought back memories of a lot of good times. Going to the Forum and later the Staples center when they moved across town. The free burgers from Jack in the Box or somewhere when they scored over a hundred points or other sports weirdness you never get here. Drinking cocktails while driving from West Hollywood downtown to home games. I'll leave the names of the escapade-ee's out... Every game was televised too, the club commentator Chick Hearn was a legend in his own right. ("This game is in the refrigerator!") Shaq, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, the tail end of Magic's career, all of the incredible superstar opponents, the massive nights, everything, but for me, most of all, there was Kobe Bryant.
When I lived in Echo Park, I used to drive 12 miles past Dodgers stadium, through Griffiths Park, to Burbank to do my laundry. I'd get the Times from a blue newspaper stand for 25 cents and pour over the game reports and the analysis over a bean burrito in Taco Bell, maybe a quesadilla, a refillable diet pepsi, phone on silent, no other distractions, as my laundry tumbled dry across the stripmall parking lot.
I can't think of a British equivalent athlete. No one quite as brilliant or competitive. Kobe came to LA at 18 from the Charlotte Hornets and as you know in American professional sports that is unusual as most players are drafted after proving themselves in college. Kobe's moves defied physics, his basketball was ballet. It was a privilege to be a fan of the NBA when Kobe was a Laker. And what an astonishing era. The titles and the drama. There was of course the 81 point game, against I think the Toronto which is just beyond belief.
81 point in 3 minutes, Kobe Bryant.
My Kobe love was sullied by the sexual assault case and never fully recovered after that. Friends, who perhaps weren't massive admirers back then, - it's tricky among the slacker community to see hard work and dedication getting rewarded, maybe they were the Shaq people too, say Kobe evolved rapidly as a person, particularly since he stopped playing...
We've all come a long way together. Maybe the Big O put it best, "Kobe was a legend on the basketball court."