I don’t normally talk about sports related stuff. However this is a topic I felt like I couldn’t avoid. I felt like with the passing of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant I needed to air my own feelings as they are certainly complicated.
Let’s start with the obvious. I was born in 1982. I started watching NBA basketball during the Michael Jordan era. I am only a few years younger than Bryant was so I was smack dab in the middle of my teenage angst when his career was kicking off. He was becoming a rising star right around the time I was getting beginning to use basketball as a bonding experience with my dad. Dad and I never talked much growing up. But when we sat and watched an NBA game we could find things to say.
I distinctly remember watching those funny puppet commercials when Kobe was competing with the new kid on the block, Lebron James. I never got to experience an NBA game live in person, but my dad and I never missed a game whenever we had the chance.
To be fair neither my dad nor myself were L.A. Laker fans. It’s not to say we were anti-Lakers entirely, well dad more so than I, but we certainly took pleasure in watching them lose to certain teams. I tended to root for them on rare occasions whereas dad was adamant in his disdain. Still, despite all that we still took time to appreciate the victories the man achieved as he smashed one record after another. Watching him surpass my beloved Jordan was one of those moments where I gave the man his dues yet under my breath wished he would tear an ACL or something to put an end to that streak.
In the summer of 2007 I ended up moving into an apartment with who was at the time my best friend. The type of guy that would not only give you the shirt off his back, he was the guy that didn’t have a drivers license but he still owned a car so he could lend it to anyone in need. Dominic was by far my best friend for the longest period of my life. Unfortunately I moved around a lot so it was always hard for me to make friends. Fortunately Dom, as we called him, was the only one I ever met who would never turn me away when I needed him. If I knocked on his door in the middle of the night, even if he had company he would invite me in and ask his lady friend to hang tight. He would always answer his the phone no matter what. If he couldn’t talk he would say so and offer a better time to call back. And he was the only friend I had who always called me back.
Dom was one of the biggest Kobe Bryant fans I ever met. He was African American himself and had a slight resemblance to his idol. I mean to say he went out of his way to dress and look like the man he worshiped. Dom wore nothing, and I mean nothing but Kone Bryant jersey’s and shorts. He had literally every single different jersey Kobe wore, including his different All Start and Olympic ones. He went all in.
Dom fell ill with a disease known as Huntington’s. Needless to say the man we all loved deteriorated rather quickly. Despite the hand life dealt him, he never lost his good sense of humor. Even when he was suffering he put on a smile and kept going. He had the distinction of getting to meet his idol at a basketball game mere months before Kobe retired.
As life would have it, however, Dom ultimately passed away days after the encounter. He also left behind a daughter that he never got to know due to the affects his disease had on his life. On the one hand I am somewhat relieved Dominic never got to see his idol die in a fiery helicopter crash the rest of us had to hear about. Instead he got to pass away peacefully knowing the man he looked up to retired on the top of his game. On the other hand, I miss Dom more and more as time goes on, even more so now knowing the man that was such a big part of his life is now gone.
Dom loved basketball. I distinctly remember playing street ball with Dom and friends at the memorial basketball court my school student council installed in memory of one of our own who passed away upon graduation. That’s another story for a different day but it’s worth mentioned as Dominic and I were both on that student council.
I didn’t really take the time to properly mourn Dom when he passed. I buried myself in my work. I reached out to his brother and a few friends from high school but I had put that town, that part of my life in the past. Despite the pain it caused, at the time, I moved on. Now, there remains lingering traces of a painful funeral I never attended, brought to the surface by the sting of seeing someone that was such a huge part of his life now gone.
I remember that summer I lived with Dom he didn’t even charge me rent. I needed a place to stay after getting into a fight with my parents. He offered me not a couch, but his spare bedroom he always had on hand for a friend in need. He was that guy too, the one who rented a 2 bedroom apartment even though he lived alone. I wasn’t the only stray he took in, hell I wasn’t even the only one who stayed during that summer. He was such a big hearted, giving person he stocked his cupboards with extra food and snacks for the neighborhood kids. Anyone needed a peanut butter sandwich or Oreo cookie , he mad damn sure they got it. He never locked his door. You could come and go freely and if you needed something, just ask and it was yours.
Dom wasn’t without his skeletons. Nor was Bryant to be sure. But those aren’t worth digging into here. What is worth knowing is he loved Jesus, and he made sure everyone knew it too. He lived the life. The Christian life as best he could. He stumbled, sure, so do we all. But he was the first to tell you he sinned and would always ask for forgiveness when he wronged someone. He was also the type of person that would throw an impromptu birthday part for the stranger passing by who lost all his money at the casino. Needless to say someone as giving as Dom was a target for people who didn’t share his respect for others. Fortunately when he did fall prey to scammers, the community was quick to rally around him, restoring any losses he incurred while swiftly seeking to shame anyone who took advantage.
I suppose I have passed beyond memorial into rambling. It’s hard not to say good things about this guy. I know I’ve had different opportunities to remember Dom over the years. I guess hearing about the passing of Kobe Bryant hit me harder than I expected because it reminded me of how much I miss Dominic Hall. I don’t talk about my friends enough. I don’t have many and the ones I had are leaving me to face this life alone but I feel the need to remember the good ones and Dominic was one of the best friends I ever had.