SAN FRANCISCO –- Having graduated from UCLA and worked as an NBA player agent in an office in the Brentwood section of the city, Bob Myers spent much of his life L.A. and came to know a thing or three about Kobe Bryant.
Myers estimates he “probably saw a couple hundred” Lakers game during Kobe’s 20-year career, which ended in 2016.
Now the president and general manager of the Warriors, Myers spent a few minutes Sunday afternoon navigating through numerous pauses to utter a few memories in the wake of Kobe’s sudden death in a horrific helicopter crash a few hours earlier.
Myers’ initial response to hearing the news from Warriors executive vice president Kirk Lacob, was, like that of many others, disbelief.
“We talk about fake news and we talk about hoaxes, and this is one where you’re wishing for it,” Myers said on a conference call. “But then as the news kind of kept coming in, you realize it was real.”
Several hours later, Myers still was distraught and in shock, as was much of the NBA and sports fans around the world. Kobe was 41 years old and long ago attained the status of one-name celebrity – as in Magic or Elvis or Beyonce or Prince – and, according to Myers, expected nothing less than massive glory and fame.
Myers walked into the office of Arn Tellem, one of the power agents of the 1990s, and 19-year-old Kobe was sitting in a chair in the lobby wearing a Joe Montana retro 49ers jersey.
“He was going into his second year,” Myers recalled. “And he said – he was a gregarious guy; I talked to him for a few minutes – and he said he was going to win 10 championships and then move to Italy and finish his career there.”
Kobe, 19 at the time, settled for five championships and 20 seasons with the Lakers.
“He was probably the most competitive person I’ve ever been around,” Myers said. “He was a warrior. Not in our sense of it, but in the regular sense.”
Kobe took the torch from Michael Jordan and became the symbol of iron will. That garnered a lot of respect around the league and added to the cult of Kobe among NBA players. Warriors star Klay Thompson’s father, Mychal, is a two-time champion Laker but Klay grew up studying Kobe.
“He was, to this generation of NBA players, their first mythical figure,” Myers said. “For a lot of players that are young now or maybe in their 20s or 30s, even young fans, who probably grew up more in the media era than anybody, he certainly caught, in the last 10 years of his career, we were walking into this kind of 24/7 coverage era. People got to know him and follow him. Obviously, playing in L.A . . .
“Bigger than life.”
Kobe’s star in Southern California was as grand and glossy as the hottest entertainers in town, nearly all of whom worshipped the ground on which he walked. Even after a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in 2013 nudged him toward retirement, the crowds at Staples Center never lost their passion for all things Kobe.
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“Just the fans in the arena,” Myers recalled. “Steph (Curry) gets some of that with us, too. But he was . . . that whole city has got to be feeling this to a great degree.
“Respect is the thing we all hope to earn in life, and I think they all respected him. That’s hard to do. NBA players are tough audience. It’s tough to impress them, no matter what you do. I think they’d be lying if they said they didn’t look up to him in some ways, especially the players that grew up watching him.”
The man has left this earth, leaving memories for the world to cherish. And cherish it will, for Kobe left quite the catalog of moments as his basketball legacy.