A very personal public statement from the bottom of Joshua Schnitman’s heart.
I would first like to start by acknowledging my heartfelt condolences to all of the family and friends of those that were affected by this horrific 1-26-20 crash!
In regards to Kobe, I recall two different fan reactions to him throughout my young life. There was the one that made fun of me for wearing his #8 jersey every single day in the summer of 2004 and throughout the 2004-2005 season, where I, an 8 year old, was constantly told that Kobe was a bad teammate, a bad role model, and a bad person… I knew in my heart that – that was all the complete opposite of true… Then, there was the fan reaction a few years later – where billions were so mesmerized with Kobe’s greatness, that they actually questioned whether or not he was even a “human being!”
I first became obsessed with basketball and with Kobe during the 2003-2004 season. The Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals that year, which immediately led to Coach Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal’s departure. Kobe began to get hammered by the media and solely blamed for the breakup of a dynasty. Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal were not shy in expressing how they felt about Kobe at the time.
While I continued to wear Kobe’s #8 jersey every single day to elementary school throughout that long 2004-2005 season (where the Lakers actually missed the playoffs), somehow, I knew in my heart that things would turn around and that Kobe’s emblematic representation of perseverance and resilience would trigger consequential glory. Considering the comments that Phil had published about Kobe in his 2004 “New York Times” Best Seller: “The Last Season: A Team in Search Of It’s Soul,” I wouldn’t have imagined that he would agree to return to the Lakers and coach Kobe starting in 2005-2006; and there is no question that their relationship wound up “transcending the norm” in a beautiful way in winning those eventual 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 championships…
I never imagined that Shaquille O’Neal would eventually “come around” and realize how stupid his feud with Kobe was…
Kobe was a Los Angeles Laker for life, who actually became the first NBA player in history to play 20 seasons with the same organization. It was at the very midway point of his career (summer of 2006), where he actually would change from the jersey #8 to the #24 … I never understood why? But a huge part of his legacy on the basketball court is that he became the first player to have two separate jersey numbers retired by the same organization; his 10 seasons wearing the #8 with the Lakers were unquestionably the stats and accomplishments of a Hall of Fame player, as of course were his stats and accomplishments wearing the #24.
I never imagined that Kobe would have a farewell tour like the one he would have in final 2015-2016 season, which was completely over the top… as was his jersey retirement ceremony on December 18, 2017.
But the greatest thing for me is that because of going to the games with my dad to watch Kobe play – I would continuously bump into a man in the Staples Center concession stands, and ultimately, over time, develop the most touching understanding with him. My “Cutie Pie,” William Walton Sharman, 70 years older than me, was someone who I most uniquely bonded with (during what was the last chapter of his life), who I became the definition of family with, and my understanding with him has had an indescribable impact on my life… Bill Sharman was one of the very few 2x Hall of Fame inductees (enshrined as both a player and as a coach), who won 17 championships in 5 different capacities impacting both sides of the Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry; the NBAs preliminary “professional” – who was the most dedicated, far-reaching, forward thinking mastermind – who innovated the day-of-the-game “shootaround” concept; and was also the mainspring who was responsible for bringing Magic Johnson to the Lakers, which eventually took the NBA to the inconceivable heights that it became by Kobe Bryant’s childhood.
I came to realize the scary similarities between both Bill Sharman and Kobe Bryant as competitors, whose work ethic embodied the definition of dedication. Much of my intimate time bonding with Bill Sharman took place during Kobe Bryant’s 2012-2013 season (the very last of Kobe’s “prime”), where he was playing some of his most relentless basketball (at age 34), before he tragically ruptured his Achilles tendon.
As you could see, Kobe brought people together, which built the greatest relationships imaginable.
Kobe, you were way much more than one of the all-time great basketball players and ambassadors. You were someone that genuinely cared about helping the world and you really did! Your legacy will continue for trillions of years to come! You will certainly have a huge place in my heart forever and ever! God Bless You!