Darius ran frantically through the twisting halls of the Staples Center, searching in vain for his favorite teammate. “Kobe! Kobe Bryant! Where are you, man?” He paused and looked inside a trash receptacle. Not finding Kobe within, he got on his hands and knees and looked under a nearby bench. “Damn, he’s not here either! Kobe, come on man, I know you’re around somewhere!”
He barged into a women’s restroom, despite the fervent protestations of the athletic trainers who were chasing after him. But the room was empty. There was no Kobe. Darius ran out as quickly as he ran in, nearly obliterating a trainer. Darius’ eyes, previously clouded with confusion, lit up. “Hey Brad, you’re friends with Kobe, right? Do you know where he is?”
Brad, an assistant shooting coach, looked sadly at Darius. “Um, have you tried the locker room?”
Darius’ face lit up to match his eyes. “Yeah! I bet Kobe’s there waiting for me!” He took off at full speed towards the home locker room, a huge smile having taken over his mouth, eagerly anticipating being reunited with his fellow shooting guard.
After several minutes’ running, Darius arrived at the familiar location. He ran into the locker area, yelling “Kobe!” preemptively. Such was his certainty that Kobe would be there.
But the only Lakers there were Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol. “Kobe? Are you hiding? Come on dude, this isn’t a game,” Darius yelled, running over to the locker where Kobe’s number 24 jersey was hanging. He looked in all corners of the locker, fully expecting Kobe to somehow materialize.
Jodie approached slowly and put a tender hand on Darius’ shoulder. “Darius, dude, Kobe’s gone. He’s not coming back. We told you that,” Jodie said consolingly.
“You’re lying! Kobe would never leave us! Lakers for life man!” Darius exclaimed, shaking his head. But the tears were already present in his eyes, and a close observer could see the distant cloudiness overtaking them. He grabbed the jersey tightly. “Kobe…Kobe…I miss you man, I just want to see you again.”
“We all miss him. But we will see him on the other side,” Jodie said softly, gently. “Now get your stuff on, shootaround starts soon.”
Darius was now crying fully. “Give me a sec.” Jodie and Pau left the lockers, leaving him alone with his sorrow. He pulled on #24 and closed his eyes. He could see, in his mind’s eye, Kobe waving at him on his first day as a Laker. He could see Kobe clapping from the bench when he had made his first shot in the NBA. But, even as snapshots of memory continued to appear to him, Kobe’s figure in them seemed to stutter and dissolve, as if transmitted by a faulty radio tower.
Several minutes later, he opened his eyes. “Jodie was right. In time, we will be reunited in radiant splendor. But I must continue alone.”