FAYETTEVILLE — It was a Sunday night in May, 2005, I went to bed about 1 a.m. and little did I know my world was getting ready to be turned upside down.
Less than an hour after going to bed, the smoke alarms went off. I had seen homes burned down, but didn’t know anyone who had suffered that. I just stayed in bed, but it was just seconds my youngest son came and yelled for me to get up the house was on fire.
I was the last one out of house and just as I was exiting the front door the TV blew up seconds after I got out. The home was a total loss including a huge memorabilia collection.
Oh we had insurance that covered the furniture, but I was one who never thought a house fire would happen to me so I had no extra coverage on the memorabilia.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was telling a friend of mine close to the Los Angeles Lakers about the fire and all my memorabilia being gone. That friend was obviously sympathetic. She knew I idolized Kobe Bryant.
Once again, fast forward two or three days this friend calls me back. She said Mr. Bryant has something for you and I will put it in the mail. I was stunned and didn’t ask what. I figured a picture or something.
A few days later the package came in the mail. It was an autographed jersey of Kobe Bryant’s No. 8. This was just before Kobe opted to change to No. 24 in 2006-07.
Much like today when I heard the news of Kobe’s death, I looked at the jersey and cried. I know it’s not cool for men to cry (at least admit it), but I did then and again today. Kobe did things like this that never got mentioned because he didn’t do it to get credit or whatever.
Fortunately I recorded my TV segment just before the news of Kobe’s death broke on TMZ. I had walked out of the studio with Jason Carroll. He was on his way to the Arkansas basketball game at Bud Walton.
I hadn’t made it three blocks and my phone rings. It was Jason which usually means someone committed after I left the studio or something went wrong with the taping.
I answered expecting fully to be asked to go back to the studio. Instead, Jason said, “I think Kobe Bryant is dead.” Jason’s wife had seen the report and messaged him.
At first, I thought I misunderstood. I asked what? He repeated it. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say.
I idolized Kobe because of the Mamba Mentality. No one would outwork Kobe and I admired that. Yes, I am a Lakers fan. But Kobe is the type you love if you are a Lakers fan and respect if you are an opposing fan.
The outpouring support and messages about Kobe today from both current Lakers and former opponents proves that he was very respected.
When my house burned and I saw all my memorabilia being ashes in my office I felt I was finished collecting. Instead, a gift from Kobe through a friend changed my mind.
Rest in Peace to Kobe and his beautiful daughter. I know this isn’t Razorback related, but I just wanted to share Kobe was a beast on the court, but someone with a big heart off of it.