Kobe Bryant’s announcement of retirement at the end of this season has prompted many memories of the Laker superstar. On Facebook, I offered the following anecdote:
My one Kobe moment: His rookie year, we went to see the Bulls play the Clippers at the Sports Arena. We sat next to the Bulls bench. Before the game, Kobe and his sister take seats right next to my wife and I. Almost at once a line of kids forms to my right, on the aisle, all wanting Kobe’s autograph. A security guy says “Kobe, want me to clear them out?” Kobe says to us, “Is it bothering you guys?” We say not at all, it was cool seeing the kids all buzzing around the new kid. So pretty much the entire game he signs autographs, while Jordan has one of THOSE games. Just crazy, and after each spectacular dunk, he’d look at Kobe with his eyebrows raised and Kobe would just crack up. Just an unforgettable night. Near the end of the game Kobe says to us, “I hope all these kids weren’t too big a distraction. Do you have a little one at home? Can I sign something for him?” I think Charlie was about 2, and so Kobe signed the halftime stat sheet for him. I loved him that night, I love him now. I hate the Lakers, but as fans, we’ve all been blessed by this guy. He made the game better. And man I will miss him.
Enter Kelly Newman, who commented with a TERRIFIC Kobe tale that placed him right on Beach Boulevard. Of course, the fact that he started dating his longtime wife Vanessa while she was a student at Marina High School no doubt brought him to HB many times (around the same era I’d often see Cherokee Parks dropping his kid off at Harbour View). But Kelly had more than a close encounter with #8. She got to bring him his lunch:
When I used to work for Philly Grille, Kobe came in & ordered some cheesesteaks…I remember it vividly as it was in ’07 after the Lakers lost in the playoffs (which I had no idea b/c at the time, I didn’t really care about basketball….or the Lakers) I see him all 6ft tall at the window & as I took his order, I looked at him & asked him his name, & he says “Kobe,”. I go, “Kobe, as in Kobe Bryant? No way!! Get outta here!!” & he tells me that he is….I still didn’t believe it’s him, my first thought was that I was being Punk’d. “Okay Ashton!! Come out wherever you are, this isn’t funny!!”…so I put in his order, & I take the next guy’s order, to which I ask him: “Did I really just take Kobe Bryant’s order??” & the guy looks at me & goes, “You sure did!” My jaw drops several feet & I am freaking out!! My cooks are looking at me like “What happened?” so I giddily them: “GUYS, I JUST TOOK KOBE BRYANT’S ORDER!! HOLY SHIT!!” so my cooks are just as excited as I was & I tell them, “Take good care of his order!!”. So as Kobe waits around for his order, I go out & talk to him, he asks me how long Philly Grille has been around, as I know Kobe is from Philly & he seems genuinely interested; so I ask him about how the Lakers are doing this season, & he tells me “Ahhh we just lost in the playoffs last night,”. I tell him, “Ahhhh man that sucks!! Well hopefully next season will be better!!”. I didn’t get the whole assholey, arrogance from him at all as some people would speak about him, & he seemed really cool.. I guess word got around that Kobe was at Philly Grille so he had a little swarm of people buzzing around him, including Robert from Hilltop Liquor, which he asked me to take a picture with him & Kobe in front of Philly Grille, which I was more than happy to do as I know that Robert is a HUGE Lakers fan. My cooks were bugging me to go out & take a picture with him, which I was like, “Nah, I’m good,” I was a bit shy about doing that, but I asked him I could at least get his autograph which he was more than happy to do & he autographed his order ticket. To me that was a cool moment. Cut to a year & a half later, I come into work & I see pictures of him with boss’s son Ian (who also worked for Philly Grille too yrs ago) & one of our cooks, along with another autograph….I was mad b/c I lived like 2 blocks away & the guys could have told me he came back, & that time he brought his kids in for lunch, but I was glad that he came back to dine at Philly Grille. So there is my moment meeting Kobe. I am not a fan of the Lakers & that team hasn’t had any luck these past few yrs, but for Kobe to retire after 20yrs, he accomplished a lot being with the Lakers, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. I wish him nothing but the best.
Kelly lives in Arizona right now but whenever she comes back to HB to visit her folks, she still puts in a few hours at the Grille (best cheesesteak in HB, if you ask me). And no doubt, whenever she does, she’ll probably still think about Kobe. Thanks for the story, Kelly (and the original receipt!)