UCI Laker Fans: Let’s Channel Some of That Kobe Fever Elsewhere

Let’s be honest for a moment. Lakers fan or not, the presence of one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball visiting our gym is pretty exciting news. Kobe Bryant’s spontaneous visit to the Anteater Recreation Center sparked a cyber frenzy of updated Facebook statuses and Twitter posts.

I was fortunate enough to have my own encounter with the Black Mamba about two years ago. Before I share with you this experience, let me establish myself as an avid Lakers fan. Let’s just say that when I ace a midterm or beat a few friends in a game of Fifa, I no longer celebrate with the typical emotional outburst that I once expressed. Instead, I find myself slowly pushing my lower jaw forward, flexing my lower lip downward to show my teeth and make it seem like I suffer from a severe underbite. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, just watch Kobe’s facial expression after he makes a clutch play.

My story begins with a typical visit to the ARC in May of 2008. I was shooting around with a close friend for about hour or so when we were compelled to grab some breakfast after the combined sound level of our stomachs growling would have put the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Ford Center to shame. We agreed to get something to eat then finish our workout. Upon our return, we entered the main weight room closest to the entrance. This would be where I first experienced what it was like to be standing in the presence of a basketball god.

I was frozen. My heart had jumped into my throat, and the taste of my arteries had consumed the flavor of the blueberry bagel I had just devoured. Amidst the internal chaos that was pulsating throughout my body, I knew one thing for sure: I was not going to be one of those fans that knelt at his feet and showered with him with compliments.

I decided to continue with my workout, but made sure to position myself at an angle that would allow me to look in the mirror and be able to watch his every move.

Creepy, I know. After about ten minutes my friend started to make her way in my direction. In order to get to where I was standing she needed to pass Kobe and his crew. But before she got to me, she decided to tap one of the tall men, standing around number 24, and compliment his kicks. She was a huge sneaker head and was admiring what she thought were Michael Jordan’s latest pair. In her exact words she said, “Nice kicks, are they Jordan’s?” They were not Jordan’s. I knew that, he knew that, but she didn’t know that. He was obviously wearing Kobe III’s and she had committed a cardinal sin by mistaking them for something else. The man, who we later found out was a friend/trainer of Kobe’s, turned to the Mamba, and explained what had happened. By this time, my friend had completed her short journey and was standing by my side. Kobe stood up from his work-out bench, looked directly at me and said, “Oh, so you’re talking trash?”

This was said with a smile on his face and a cool and calm demeanor. He slowly approached me, the innocent victim in the entire equation, got directly in my face and asked if I had anything else to say. He was obviously joking around, but at the time all I could feel was the warm stream of urine trickling down my inner thigh. I quickly replied that I would never disrespect him. After that moment, Kobe became human to me. He was just another guy at the gym trying to do his workout. We had a pretty cool conversation about shoes and college and we eventually went our separate ways.

Now there are two morals in this story. The first one should seem obvious. Kobe is a superstar, but he is human. Despite the rumors, he is a nice guy and deserves to be treated like everyone else. The second moral of this story may not be as obvious. A lot of students here at UCI are avid sports fans, and can get extremely excited over a brief visit by Kobe Bryant at the ARC. They go out of their way to make sure they can catch a glimpse of him before he makes his way home. How about we channel that excitement and make time in our busy schedules to support the growing athletics program at UCI? We have the teams; we just don’t have the support.

It’s the same concept of dropping whatever you may be doing and speeding over to the ARC to see one of the greats.