ap file photo : In this April 16, 2016 photo with the Bryant family left to right Vanessa, Kobe, Natalia, and Gianna before the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz game at Staples Center in Los Angeles
By Jeremy Kahn
Everybody who knows me knows that I love the University of Michigan Wolverines; because, my family is from the State of Michigan and over a dozen of my family members have degrees from the Ann Arbor campus.
Well, that Is one love in sports I have, but my other love is the Los Angeles Lakers and it is because, I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area.
Today is the hardest day for Lakers fans all over the world; because, of the passing of Kobe Bryant at the age of 41.
Bryant, who was born in Philadelphia, but grew up in Italy, as his father Joe Jellybean Bryant continued his career in that country.
After the elder Bryant retired, the family returned to the Philadelphia area and the legend of Kobe began, when he was in high school at Lower Merion High School.
Bryant skipped college, and was drafted 13th in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets and was immediately traded to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac.
That same summer, the Lakers signed Shaquille ONeal to a long-term contract and the Lakers had their next dynamic duo.
In the summer of 1997, Michelle Richardson and I had the opportunity to meet Bryant on a couple of occasions and somewhere I have his autograph along with Tracy McGrady.
In their fourth year that the duo of Bryant and ONeal were together, they won the first of three straight NBA Championships after defeating the Indiana Pacers in six games.
The next season, the Lakers went an amazing 15-1 on their way to their second NBA title over the Philadelphia 76ers and as fate would have it, the Lakers clinched the championship in Bryants hometown of Philadelphia, much to the dismay of Philadelphians.
Bryant and ONeal would another title in 2002, but after the 2004 loss to the Detroit Pistons, the duo would split up, as ONeal was traded to the Miami Heat.
It would be another four years before the Lakers would return to the NBA Finals and after losing to their long-time rivals, the Boston Celtics, they would come back to win back-to-back NBA titles to give Bryant five NBA Championships, along with an NBA MVP and back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs in 2009 and 2010.
Father time began to show on the body of Bryant, as near the end of the 2012-2013 NBA season, Bryant would tear his left Achilles Tendon against the Golden State Warriors.
Bryant would return to the court after the 2013-2014 season began, but he broke the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. He would play in just six games that season.
The following season, Bryant suffered an injury to his shoulder, as he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
On November 29, 2015, Bryant announced his retirement and the 2015-2016 season would be his last.
There was last Black Mamba moment to come, as Bryant scored 60 points in his last game of his NBA career against the Utah Jazz. The 60 points are the most by a player in their final game in NBA history.
Bryant would win an Academy Award for his Short Film Dear Basketball, at the 2018 Academy Awards.
Today is a tragic day for members of Lakers Nation all over the world, as Bryant, his 13-year daughter Gianna along with seven others perished in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California, not too far from my hometown of Canoga Park.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Vanessa, his three surviving daughters, his parents and his sister.