Being an ’80’s baby gave me the opportunity to witness ’90s basketball, one of the best eras of basketball. My adolescence gave me the chance to watch some of the best NBA players ever on the hardwood. I actually got to watch Air Jordan Michael Jordan play outside of YouTube. Players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp, Penny Hardaway,Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Shaquille O’neal, Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, the dope 1996 draft class that consisted of players such as Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, they all entertained me for hours every Sunday on NBA on NBC. This was truly heaven on earth if you were a basketball fan.

What made this even more amazing, was the fact that I was born and raised in the City of Angels! By default, this made me a Clipper Laker fan, right?!

Wrong.

Well, sort of wrong. Up until the age of 10 (1995), I considered myself to be a Laker fan. I felt that since my dad used to root for the Lakers and watch the them on T.V., it was only right that I became a Laker fan as well. You know, keep it all in the family. At that point in time, Nick Van Exel, Anthony Peeler and Eddie Jones were my dudes, and I was cool with that. Then one Sunday morning, during the NBA playoffs I found myself watching the Indiana Pacers take on the New York Knicks. That’s when I witnessed Reggie Miller beat the New York Knicks by scoring 8 points in 9 seconds. I was automatically hooked and found myself rooting for the underdog. During a time where I had the chance to root for any team or player of my choosing, I decided to root for Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. That’s not something you hear very often, and quite frankly, I prefer it that way.

I’ve now been a Los Angeles-based fan of the Indiana Pacers for a little more than 20 years. I’ve seen my shares of ups and downs as a Pacer fan, but the one that hurts the most was when the Indiana Pacers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers were led by dynamic duo that consisted of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Just like Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls in the ’90s, I grew to genuinely hate dislike Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for the simple fact that they got in the way of my Indiana Pacers and their main goal of winning an NBA Championship.

My love for my Indiana Pacers runs so deep that when it came to sneakers, as a kid I would never buy an Air Jordan sneaker because I felt that if I did, I was joining the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Air Jordans and wish I owned more pairs as a kid, but I just couldn’t go through with it knowing I’d be rocking the enemy’s signature sneaker. It wasn’t until 2002 that I bought my first pair of Air Jordans. By that time, Michael Jordan was no longer a Chicago Bull (or at his prime) and any resentment I had towards the man had gone away. I started to view him as the amazing player that he was, and not as the arch nemesis of my beloved Indiana Pacers. I used to think that when Jordan finally retired for the third and final time, I’d burst with excitement. When that moment came, I actually felt a bit of sadness, and I didn’t understand why. I used to hate that guy, and now that he’s gone I get “all in my feelings”.

There was only one player that I “hated” more than Michael Jordan. That man is Kobe Bryant. I hated his cockiness, I hated his attitude, I hated the way he treated his teammates. Most of all, I hated the fact that he was one of the main reasons my Indiana Pacers have yet to win an NBA title. For that reason alone,

I knew for a fact that I would never buy Kobe’s signature sneakers.

Kobe caused too much damage for me to even consider dropping $200+ dollars on a pair of sneakers that graced his name on them. I don’t care how clean his shoes look, there’s no way in hell I’d ever purchase a pair. I’d rather take the L and keep it moving.

I knew Kobe was going to retire sooner rather than later, but once he made it official this past Sunday, it was like Déjà vu all over again. It all came full circle. What a coincidence that the first game he plays after announcing his retirement is against none other than Paul George and my Indiana Pacers. I watched that game, and I did something I never did in my 30 years of life. I found myself rooting for my Indiana Pacers AND for Kobe Bryant. I wanted the Pacers to win, but I also wanted Kobe to have a good outing one last time against my team. The Pacers won (shout out to Paul George and his 39 points), and although Kobe’s numbers were far from impressive, he did give us a glimpse of vintage Kobe during the final minute of the game that may or may not have scared me a bit.

Once the game ended, I found myself thinking a lot about how the NBA would be without Kobe Bryant. As an Angelino, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing him play on T.V. anytime I wanted. Knowing that soon that will no longer be the case, I realized that I took Kobe for granted. As much as I hated the man, he has and will always be a big part of my childhood and young adult life. I was lucky enough to witness greatness, passion and excellence all wrapped up into one player. Although I was far from being a fan (quite the opposite), there is no doubt that Kobe Bryant has earned my respect as well as the respect from millions of other fans from other NBA teams.

I was thinking of finding a way to commemorate the respect I have for Kobe. Although I consider myself to be a man of my word, I currently find myself on NIKEiD creating my first ever pair of Kobe sneakers. Yeah, I said Kobe sneaker. When it comes to the sneaker world, there’s no better or bigger way to show a player some love than to buy one of his signature shoes. By the time you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that I already ordered my Nike Kobe 10 on NIKEiD (lowkey, these Kobe 10s are about to look clean!). If that’s not paying my respects, I really don’t know what is. Who knows, maybe if the Nike Kobe 11 ends up looking dope, I’ll find myself creating another pair on NIKEiD in the near future. Kobe, it’s been one hell of a ride, and I’m not hesitant to say that I’m going to miss you. Thank you, for everything.