GREATNESS CUT SHORT — Aubrey Bruce remembers NBA legend Kobe Bryant

by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Our experiences with life and death are quite often juxtaposed so that at times, it may be difficult to distinguish one from the other. When that happens we have to endure worn out, tired and lazy phrases such as: “Here today, gone tomorrow”; “We have to take it one day at a time”; and “You never know what the sunrise is going to bring.”

That final utterance was an original Aubrey Bruce expression based on the death of my father and mother.

I remember vividly where I was when my parents passed and where I was when Otis Redding and Roberto Clemente died. And I will forever remember where I was and what I was doing on Jan. 26, 2020, when I was informed that famed NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, had died in a helicopter crash.

Seven other people died due to the accident, as the helicopter crashed in Calabasas, Calif., not far from Los Angeles. Bryant and the rest of the passengers were on their way to a girls basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, Calif.

A husband to Vanessa and a father to four, Bryant starred at Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia, then played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five NBA titles, was an 18-time All-Star, and is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game of basketball.

Bryant retired in 2016.

I met Bryant on March 21, 1996, at the McDonalds All-American High School Classic, played at the old Civic Arena. Bryant was just 17 years old at the time. I was sort of torn between Bryant and Lester Earl, a kid from Baton Rouge, La. Earl was a 6’8” forward who had superior leaping ability and had even won the slam dunk competition a couple of days before at the Fitzgerald Field House. Earl has since faded into obscurity. However, regardless of any other player’s ability, real or imagined, it was the charisma and magnetism of Kobe Bryant that set him apart at such a young age.

When we had finished the interview, Bryant looked at photographer Juan Glover and said: “I’m ready when you are.” As you can see in the photograph in this story, I wasn’t ready. I also wasn’t ready and neither was the world prepared for Kobe Bryant to be taken away from us so prematurely.

There is nothing more that I can say other than, “Kobe, I will miss you.”

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: A 1996 PHOTO OF KOBE BRYANT and Courier sports columnist Aubrey Bruce, when Bryant played at the former Civic Arena at age 17.)

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