Legendary. That is an adjective that any athlete would be honored to have associated with their name.
As a kid, I listened to my father talk about his legendary sports heroes that were saying goodbye to their careers on the court and field and starting a new chapter. Now that I am in my 30s, I am in a stage in my life where I understand the emotional connection that he felt. It started in 2007, when I was working in the ballpark entertainment department with the Houston Astros. As Craig Biggio was in the middle of chasing his 3000th hit, I made sure I was on the schedule every day as it got closer. I had picked him to hit it during the Colorado series and it looked like the stars were aligning to make that happen. As I watched each at bat and waited, his countdown clock quickly found itself at 2999. The time was now. He came up to bat and I grabbed my best friend’s hand and went out to watch. With baited breathe held tightly and my nerves on end, we stood hand in hand and took part in history. With one crack of the bat, Biggio changed not only his life, but everyone’s life in that stadium…forever. The moment is a vivid blur of cheers, tears and hugs from strangers, friends and acquaintances alike. Biggio became legendary that day on a stats level in record books, but in the eyes of the Houston faithful, he only padded his already highly clouted status of charity and morality as an amazing role model in our community. I took part in his history and it changed my perspective and life on how I looked at sports figures from then on.
Jeter.Jordan.Ali.Ruth.Agassi.Bettis.Favre.Manning, etc. etc. etc. I could go on with this list for a awhile; however, only 1 more needs to be added to this list for blogging purposes. That name is Kobe. Someone so legendary, that he need not go by his last name, he just needs his first. On Wednesday, the sun will set on Kobe’s legendary career. He may not have always had the best reputation in his personal life, but his work on the court and in the community is something that rivals all. Perseverance, drive and determination combine with non-wasted God given talent have made Kobe a part of so many lives for several years. On Sunday when he played his last game in Houston in front of a crowd of Rockets fans who mixed in Kobe gear with their Rockets red and cheered loudly with respect and hopes for a great game from this legendary man. It was their last grasp of a keepsake of him and he didn’t disappoint.
How do you say goodbye to a legend? Random odd gifts commemorating his cliché experience of each city? Those are great, but the ultimate respect comes from the applause of respect. Kobe has received that in each and every arena he has toured this year and Wednesday he will take his final bow. Those fans lucky enough to be there will carry those emotions with them for the rest of their life. They will be forever changed and forever in Kobe’s memories.
Kobe’s final bow will not be alone; it will be with friends who have lived vicariously through him for so many years. It will be cherished by lovers and haters of the black mamba alike. There will be cheers and plenty of tears, but most importantly, there will be respect and an arena filled euphorically with pride.
There simply is not a better way to say goodbye.