February 29, 2024
Art by Marielle Robles

For many occasions and gatherings, our family would rent a videoke. As a little child, I listened to my family members singing those Tom Jones hits and classic Engelbert Humperdick blues but when I got tired of seeing them getting drunk and being out of tune, I would jump on to the videoke machine and click the “VID” key. Sexy models, dancing figures, nature montages and basketball highlights would be the things that would flash whenever I click VID. The sexy models intrigued me, but because I was so little that time, I was more interested in the basketball highlights.

It was a montage of basketball moves from certain players and significant matches. I watched the 2000 dunk contest wherein Vince Carter pulled off the 360 windmill dunk while “I Believe I Can Fly” was being sung by my uncles. Then, an alley oop dunk from a certain player wearing number 8 to a big guy wearing number 34. I didn’t know back then who these players were until I heard my cousins raving about the play. I heard they were Kobe and Shaq. I was so intrigued because my cousins knew them and I didn’t. From then on, I would always pay attention to their highlights in the videoke and they were amazing.

After which, I started researching about the two of them. They won three championships together in the early 2000s but it turns out the two were no longer teammates at that time and Shaq would go on to win a championship on his own. Meanwhile,  Kobe was still with the Lakers which at that time was battling the Boston Celtics in game 6 of the NBA Finals. Kobe took a beating against the well-decorated Boston Celtics who were led by their Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. At that time, those three were among the ten best players in the league, making the Lakers the underdogs in the bid to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.

From that point on, I was on Kobe’s side because I loved underdogs. He was still under Shaq’s shadow then because he hadn’t won a chip without him and in his first finals appearance without the big man he took a championship loss against the Celtics, who were the Lakers’ long-time archrivals. For this, Kobe had a lot to prove and from then on, I saw him develop into a different beast every game until he won back-to-back championships against the Orlando Magic and then the Celtics in 2009 and 2010 respectively. 

There is nothing more than a great story. Kobe got one more than Shaq and he avenged his 2008 loss against the Celtics. He inspired me to play basketball and to love sports even more. The thrill, the excitement and those Cinderella-like stories made me realize that those moments were the fractions of life worth living.

I started reading other sports stories. Every time I saw a newspaper it would be a guilty pleasure flipping to the last page and just bug my eyes with sports news. The interest in sports which Kobe instilled in me, gave birth to my love of writing. Before I started writing other things like poetry and other journalistic stuff, I started with writing sports. Writing imaginative plays on what Kobe would do in a game and taking notes of how to describe his moves and gestures. That’s how much of a Kobe-maniac I became. I even grew an afro just to look like his early 2000s fit. 

“Kobe dunks on LeBron, taps him after.”

“Kobe splashes two go-ahead three-pointers to beat the Raptors.”

“The interest in sports which Kobe instills in me, gave birth to my love of writing.”

I started approaching other things like how Kobe approached the game. A lot of news says that he would come to the Lakers practice facility two hours before their scheduled practice to get some shots up and that Kobe was an extreme worker, his intensity in practice was like his intensity in an NBA Finals game. 

Because of that I would go on and start reading more sports stories that would equip me to be a greater sports writer, I would go to the library and clip sports news from a newspaper and archive it to study. Most of all I pledged to myself that I should always be on time. 

When Kobe tore his achilles in 2013, it was the start of his decline as a basketball player. As a fan, I would wait for him to just hit career milestones like passing Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list. But just because Kobe wasn’t performing well in those years, didn’t mean it was okay if I  slacked off. Seeing Kobe play again after what was dubbed to be a career-ending injury, made me work harder and fight through adversity. And sure enough, I pulled it off and was ever proud of myself for winning a competition in sports writing that year after a long time, just like him winning his first chip without Shaq. 

In his last game wherein he dropped 60 points against the Utah Jazz, I was unlike other fans who wanted him to stay. I felt relieved that he wouldn’t be in the NBA anymore because I knew that he had done enough for the game and that it was time for him  to become a father for his family. 

After his retirement, Kobe started teaching young NBA players to grow. He wrote books, created an animated short film and won an Oscar, but the greatest achievement of his life after basketball accomplishments was having two more babies and coaching his daughter, Gigi.

Not because Kobe’s not playing anymore meant that I could stop supporting the Lakers (though they sucked for the past six years before this season). But I’m still on their side. Sometimes when I watch Laker games, I would often see Kobe watching with Gigi because he says his daughter was the reason he is still interested in basketball.

I am dreaming that someday like Kobe, I would drop 60, and create a better ending for whatever path I would end up choosing. That someday, I too would like to do the things I love, come through the clutch to deliver in moments of trouble and become a good father. I’m just really sick right now, with how devastating his death was. But what consoles me is knowing he died being a father and not just a basketball player.

“Every person my age will still throw crumpled papers into the trash can while screaming his name and it will never change.”

His legacy will remain forever, and that is what made Kobe great. Every person my age will still throw crumpled papers into the trash can while screaming his name and it will never change. I will always be grateful to have seen him play even if just through a screen like a videoke machine, for the thrill, the excitement and those Cinderella-like stories he gave us.

At this point, family videoke nights will never be the same.


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