Month: January 2020

Kobe Bryant: A Legend Lost

Kobe Bryant is gone.

Those are the hardest words I’ve ever had to write for this blog.

It. Makes. Me. Sick.

Kobe Bryant is gone. The player who captivated the world with his basketball talents is dead. How can this be?

For many of us, he was our childhood.

He was my childhood idol. He was your childhood idol. Playing basketball in my driveway, I would wear a Kobe No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey. I felt like Kobe. I was Kobe. 

I sat quietly. I cried. I didn’t believe it.

This doesn’t feel real. Never will. But it happened.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

Why him?

His legacy wasn’t supposed to end like this. 

How can this be?

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas. They were traveling to a basketball camp where Gianna was set to play and Kobe to coach.

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No helicopter can break Kobe, right? He’s immortal. He’s untouchable. He didn’t need a helicopter. He flew so smooth. For 20 years, he reached a level of greatness that very few ever will. Gianna was supposed to be next in line.

Now, she’ll never get to do that. Kobe will never grow old. He won’t see the statue honored in his name. We won’t witness his Hall of Fame speech, one that, although it is a basketball honor, was expected to be more about life. He won’t sit courtside, toying with Shaq about winning five championships. No more watching Lebron James chase his records. No more teaching moments.

This can’t be real life.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

Kobe and Gianna leave behind a wife and mother, Vanessa and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who is less than a year old. The horror of this is unfathomable. The tragedy of this is indescribable.

I continue to cry.

The wound is felt worldwide.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

Whether you love him or hate him, if you’re a fan of basketball, Kobe is in the conversation. He’d have you standing on your feet, cheering at the top of your lungs. Or, he’d have your head in your hands, devastated because he just beat your team.

He had that type of impact.

He was the poster on the wall, on the television in our living room, the name we’d shout when we’d roll up a trash ball and throw it across the classroom.

But for all that he did, he was just getting started.

In his second act, he told USA Today Sports in a story published on Thursday, January 23, that he cherished his 20-year career with the Lakers, but that the awards he won for his 2017 animated short film, Dear Basketball– a poem announcing his retirement– which included an Oscar, a Sports Emmy and an Annie Award were “at the top.”

Bryant also had a multimedia company, Granity Studios, which produced the ESPN+ series Detail and the podcast “The Punies.” Additionally, he oversaw the publication of four sports fantasy children’s books, the last of which, The Wizenard Series: Season One, is set to hit bookstores on March 31.

He was a supporter of Special Olympics, gave back to the community and loved inspiring the next generation. For how busy he was, Kobe picked his daughters up from school and coached Gianna’s youth basketball team.

To L.A., he was just another dad in the neighborhood.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

I watched his early career. I witnessed the Lakers three-peat. I followed the sexual assault case. I watched his 60-point career-ending game against Utah. I followed everything in between. Kobe wasn’t perfect, but damn sure tried to be. When he messed up, he worked to be better. No fake apologies. He learned.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

I cried the night he scored 60-points against the Jazz. And I’m crying tonight.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

I can watch all the tributes, read all the stories and scroll through all the social media posts, it will never feel real.

Kobe Bryant is gone and it’s not fair. Los Angeles lost an icon. The world lost a legend. And a little bit of my heart for basketball is now missing.

 

 

The Lasting Impact of Tua Tagovailoa

Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t always perfect, but he tried to be. From the famous 2nd & 26 to his final play in Crimson and white, Tagovailoa gave it his all, no matter the consequences. He was a team guy. A family-first guy. One who believes anything is possible through faith. In times of greatness, there was heartbreak, but Tagovailoa went out his way. 


 

It was time. The Hawaiian prince adopted by the state of Alabama said his goodbyes. As he entered the press room at Mal Moore Athletic Complex with no crutches in hand, no limp visible to the eye, he sat waiting his turn, watching the most influential figure in recent history for Alabama—his legendary coach—address the media.

As Nick Saban made his opening statement, Tua Tagovailoa sat behind his right shoulder, with an occasional smile, his family in attendance just enjoying the moment. It was his final time in the room as a student-athlete.

“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program here as any player that we’ve ever had,” Saban said. “And I’m not just talking about as a football player.”

Tagovailoa said his farewell to college football in one of the most intriguing ways. In a moment of many unknowns, he sent a message.

His rehab from a season-ending hip injury in mid-November was working.

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Nobody knows for sure if Tagovailoa will be ready to play when week one rolls around. According to some experts, he won’t be able to participate in football activity until April. No pro day. No combine. No opportunity to showcase his skill to NFL scouts. He just has to hope the people who ultimately control where he’ll end up take into account all that he’s accomplished at Alabama.

We know he can throw. We know he can come through in big moments. But can he stay healthy?

He’s undergone two tightrope procedures, one on each ankle. There was a knee injury. And there was a hand injury during spring practice. That’s not why people are questioning his health, it’s the hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture.

The injury he suffered is more likely to happen in automobile accidents than on a football field. Most people will recover. They will go on to live a productive life, one with no boundaries on what they can do. But Tagovailoa isn’t just anyone. He’s a generational talent that’s taken the Crimson Tide to new heights. A quarterback that set a new standard.

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He’s a top-five draft talent and several NFL teams are in the market for a quarterback. At least one is bound to pick him, right?

Most likely, yes. But not so fast.

There’s no guarantee he will be the same player. Yes, the doctors are impressed with his recovery, but what’s going to happen when he gets hit? When he has to make a football move?

The answer is simple: we don’t know.

The only thing we do know is leaving Alabama was the right decision.

And staying at Alabama gains him nothing.

He leaves Tuscaloosa with a career quarterback rating of 93.4, ranking him the best in the history of the metric (which was instituted in 2004). He set the school record for passing touchdowns (87) and 300-yard games (10). He finished with 7,442 passing yards (3rd All-Time in Alabama history), set single-season records for 3,966 passing yards (2018), passing touchdowns (43) and holds a single-game record with six passing touchdowns against Ole Miss (2018).

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He could have stayed and earned one more College Football Playoff appearance, but the risk of injury is high. There’s no need to test that without a seven-figure contract.

As of Tuesday, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Xavier McKinney have announced their departures. Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Moses, Josh McMillion and Devonta Smith have decided to stay their senior season.

The good news for the Crimson Tide is that a lot of freshmen were forced to play a massive role in 2019, which translates to a 2020 roster with a lot of experience. Mac Jones was impressive, replacing Tagovailoa. Against Auburn and Michigan, Jones threw for 662 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The two interceptions were both for touchdowns in the Iron Bowl, but he remained calm and collected winning the team over.

Bryce Young, an SI-All American and ranked by some as the No. 1 quarterback in the recruiting class of 2020, is set to start classes on Wednesday.

So, Alabama will be just fine.

Tagovailoa changed the way Alabama plays football. It’s no longer “run the ball and bully the opponent until they surrender.” Their game, as a whole, is now beautiful and electrifying to watch.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

They built a team that consistently helps everyone stay glued to the game, afraid they’ll miss something if they take their eye off the screen. Even if it’s just for a split second.

Alabama and Tagovailoa were a match made in heaven. They were great for each other, but at some point, the journey had to end. Tagovailoa won’t join the long list of players who decided to stay their senior season, but he doesn’t need to.

He accomplished everything they did with one less year.

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He never talked about his talents, he let his athleticism and game do the talking. He remained humble and selfless, even in moments he could have become the main topic. He never asked for the spotlight, but he got it.

In the end, because of it, Tagovailoa became the most memorable of Alabama players.