Kobe Bryant was many things to many people. To the Los Angeles Lakers faithful, he was the retired basketball titan whose unparalleled work ethic captivated an entire city. To others, he was a doting father, an Oscar-winner, and a man whose achievements were shaded by a dropped sexual assault case.
After the death of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash, those memories are coming to the fore. To Jimmy Fallon, Kobe was a 17-year-old kid roped into a beer run.
Speaking before he kicked off the latest edition of The Tonight Show, Fallon shared his first memory of the five-time NBA champion, sourced from before Bryant secured his first ring.
“I met Kobe when he was 17 and I was 21,” Fallon said.
“He was a rookie on the Lakers, and I was just getting started out in the comedy scene in LA. We were at a party, and we didn’t know anyone at the party, so we just started talking. I said ‘Hey, what do you do,’ and he said ‘I play basketball.’ I said ‘Where?’ and he said, ‘Oh, I play for the Lakers.’
Fallon said the pair were volunteered to grab more party supplies, only to be faced with a shop assistant who wouldn’t sell them drinks. Enter the still-teenaged Kobe, who flashed his ID and said he was a Laker.
“And the guy opened the door, and we walked out with five cases of beer, and we saved the party,” Fallon said.
The late-night host became visibly emotional describing their meetings after that night.
“We’d laugh at all the good things that had happened since, and we laughed about how much fun it was to raise kids, and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to be good dads,” Fallon said.
Bryant appeared on Fallon’s show several times, and his 2017 drop-in featured some of the father-to-father chats Fallon mentioned in yesterday’s monologue.
“Kobe, when we meet again, we’re going on a beer run,” he added.
Don’t expect this to be the last tearful remembrance of the legendary athlete, but it might be the only time someone recalls the guy as a party-saving teenager.