Carpe Diem: Latin for “Seize the day”. Basically, the fancy way of saying “YOLO”. It also happens to be the nickname of a certain pair of shoes I wore last Wednesday when embarking on a last-minute, spontaneous trip to Memphis, Tennessee. What was in Memphis that required me to book a flight there the night before? Graceland, BB King, BBQ??? Nope, none of those. The correct answer is KOBE BRYANT.
KOBE, set to retire at the end of this season, was playing in his final game ever in Memphis and I decided that I was going to be there to see him play one last time in the flesh. I had the idea in my head to see him play one last time all the way back to November 30th of last year when he announced his retirement via a poem he wrote entitled, “Dear Basketball”. That moment hit me like a brick in the face. I finally realized that the generation of basketball players I grew up watching, idolizing, learning, mimicking moves from, was coming to its end. Players like Grant Hill, Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady, all superstar players from that same generation that have already retired. KOBE, drafted in 1996 straight out of high school, is the closing chapter of that era of basketball and without a doubt, the greatest player of our generation and the best, closest thing to Michael Jordan. Just like there will never be another MJ, there will never be another KOBE. I had to see him play one last time.
I travel pretty much for a living with my job, and ended up in Australia for a good chunk of time, which delayed my ability to plan when to see KOBE. Coming back from there in early February, I immediately went to work on targeting a game to go see. I knew that whatever game I chose, I had to be careful and it would have to be last minute because I didn’t want to take the chance of booking a ticket too early only for KOBE to be hurt and miss the game. Finally, on Tuesday, I decided I was flying to Memphis the very next day for a game. I booked my flight around 6pm that night and then bought my game ticket on my phone at the airport in JAX before boarding my flight out. Did I say last minute?!
Memphis may not sound like an exciting city or game to go see, but it actually was for several reasons. Another older, superstar player from the same generation as KOBE, plays for the Grizzlies – Vince Carter. So in a way, I got to see 2 childhood idols play one last time. Also, Memphis is one of 3 places that Kobe has scored 60 or more points at; the other 2 being LA and NYC. KOBE has always had a history of torching Memphis. He’s hit game winners, owns the top 3 most points scored by an opponent in a game, and has scored the most career points of any opponent against them.
I definitely was not expecting anything similar happening that night again. The game started and KOBE hit a 3 pointer for the Laker’s first points of the game. A minute or so later, he hits 2 consecutive turnaround fadeaway jumpers, a move he is well-known for. 7 points early, a quick start for KOBE these days. At that moment, I thought to myself, “What if?” What if he turned back the clock and put on a vintage scoring performance? Well, he didn’t, finishing the game with 13 points. Side note: Vince was a bit low-key too with just 9 points. Here's a video I made with some footage I got from the game as well as his career highlights against Memphis.
Some people may consider it a waste to spend the skymiles and money just to see a childhood idol play as a shell of his former self. For me, the experience was incredible. The spontaneity, excitement, and joy of fulfilling this goal was completely worth it. I also wasn’t the only one there to see KOBE. I met a couple that drove from West Virginia, another family that drove from St. Louis and some college students that flew from Alabama. As an added bonus, before the game, I ate the best ribs of my life at a place called Blues City Café on Beale St. and after the game, I was entertained by a short, bald white guy singing Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”. When life gives you the opportunity to do something you really want to do, just do it. You never know when or if the opportunity will ever pass you by again. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!
Oh, and that sign I'm holding that I wrote, "I bought ankle insurance from Kobe" - Here's an explanation: