[Inquirer] - On the day after Kobe Bryant died, a friend and high school classmate of mine sent me an email that carried the force of a punch I couldn’t see coming. “Thought you’d find this interesting,” Ben Relles wrote. Embedded in the message was a link to a 36-second video. I clicked on the link, then gasped.
A family friend of Ben’s had filmed the game, and Ben, having kept the tape all these years and knowing he would be sitting down with Kobe, had converted the recording to a digital file. Then, once the YouTube meeting had ended, Ben had played the footage on the laptop, and one of his coworkers had taken care to capture Kobe’s reaction to it. There it all was, in cosmic juxtaposition. You could watch Kobe, as a 39-year-old, watch himself, as a 14-year-old, in real time.
He sent the video to Helen, and she and Bob saw their son again, for the first time in more than 18 years. “It was like he was still alive,” Helen said, “almost like he was going to walk through the door later with his gym bag.” Then Jeff sent it to Ken Senior and Bobby’s circle of friends from Princeton. “I got chills,” Ken said.
I'm not going to lie, this is one of those tragedy stories that turned into an awesome one. Any time you're talking about two different people that tragically died it's rare that any feel good story can come out of it. But this is where we're at and honestly as we get through the quarantine we need some feel good stories from time to time.
But this shows how crazy small this world is. You have someone at YouTube prepping for a meeting with Kobe and while doing that he finds a video of Kobe's first high school game. Feel like that in itself is bizarre. Lower Merion was not some basketball powerhouse. Shit, they were decent when I was growing up and I still remember hearing how Kobe called the team for a message in 2005 before a state title game. That's what Kobe was to Lower Merion and vice versa.
Think about being the parents of Bobby McIlvaine here too. I can't imagine what it's like to experience the death of your child - as so many had to do on September 11. It's nearly two decades later and you're going about what is now your everyday life. The day Kobe tragically died, this clip started to circulate around Lower Merion and made its rounds. Someone delivered that to you. You get to see your son one more time play basketball and you see the first video of him.
A few days later, Jeff e-mailed me to ask if there was more video available from the Lower Merion-Upper Dublin game. I suggested that he reach out to Ben Relles, who had preserved that precious 36-second, 27-year-old piece of footage. On Feb. 11, he did.
I can't tell you what a thrill that video was for me and my family. We don't have any video of Bobby, so seeing him in live action was emotional and very therapeutic.
They ended up getting a full 5 minute video of their son playing against Kobe. Talk about an all-time video to have of your son. I simply just can't imagine being parents having no idea this exists. Hell, they didn't even know Kobe watched that 30 second clip and that started to go viral. I'm always stunned at these sort of stories. The world is so fucking big yet always feels so small. The six degrees of separation always seems to come up at the craziest of times too.
Shout out everyone who was able to get the family the video and share this story. Sometimes we just need an awesome story to get through the day. This one did it for me today.