You approached, hopping, with the inevitable orange ball in your hands, your eyes always turned to your father Joe, who was warming up with a few shots, during the breack of a home game, in your Pistoia. You came closer, almost careless and with a lot of spontaneity and candour, you sat down with the ball in your arms, on my knees.
I was sitting in the front row on the sidelines, with your mother and other family members sitting in the row just behind mine. Your mother touched my shoulder apologizing for your gesture, she had a beautiful smile that I often saw on your face, at the end of one of your fantastic games.
Your stayed on my legs just for 30 seconds, then you went down, you smiled at me and without saying anything, you ran to another part of the building. During those years Joe Bryant, Kobe’s father, played in Pistoia and the whole family lived in Cireglio, a small village between the Pistoia hills. The whole Bryant family made the small hill town fall in love with their kindness and authenticity. Joe Bryant paid a bus out of his own pocket to allow the inhabitants of the village to go and watch the home games of the team he played in.
Those who, like me, were enough lucky to meet you several times, cannot forget your participation at one of the most famous amateur tournaments in the province of Pistoia. One of those tournaments were participate mixes teams composed by mixing old ex-players, amateur players and young promises. You entered the field with an important basketball name, but with a green shirt almost to the knees, on your shoulders you carried a number that we would have seen on your Los Angeles Lakers shirt.
You were small compared to the other players, even if a certain basketball physique was already visible and many spectators, I remember, welcomed you with fondness and tenderness. After the second three-point shot you put into the opponents’ basket, the tenderness of the spectators turned into amazement. When the unfortunate player that was man-marking you received the order to not let you shot anymore, he made some protests towards his coach. But, you know, certain amateur matches are played as champions’ cup finals, even in basketball… you approached the opponent’s perimeter for the umpteenth time and, upon receiving the ball, hit another three-point shot, however, your marker, much taller than you, under the pressure of the bench, stopped your shot. I still have very present the roar of disapproval and the disputes from the stands for that gesture. The victim, guilty of that action, was overwhelmed by the whistles of the spectators.
The last time I met that player he reminded me, however, with pride, he was one of the few in the world to have stopped Kobe Bryant…
Today I don’t want to talk about your great deeds as a professional player, I leave it to others. I am very sad, though, that this damn accident killed two kids. Your 13-year-old daughter Gianna and a boy named Kobe who sat on my knees.