SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — The sports world is still reeling from the death of Kobe Bryant.
Of the millions who watched the superstar shine on the court, Salem resident and author Roland Lazenby was one of the few to witness his character up close and personal.
When news spread of Bryant’s tragic passing, the phone calls started pouring in.
“It hasn’t stopped,” Lazenby said. “So many of them are texting me. All the people who knew and love Kobe and there are many. All of them are going through the same thing I’m sure.”
Lazenby had a rare glimpse of the Lakers legend. The author of more than five dozen books penned the 2016 biography titled “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant”.
His relationship with the NBA player began early, long before he reached worldwide celebrity status.
“I was there in Charlotte the night Kobe scored his first NBA field goal. He came into the locker room with a soul shake. He had no idea who I was, just a guy with a microphone and a recorder. But we got to be good friends,” Lazenby said.
Lazenby saw Bryant in so many moments of his life and career.
“He said, ‘I know I’m going to make it. I don’t know how.’ Because he was under a lot of duress,” Lazenby said.
What many didn’t see off the court was what set Bryant apart from the rest.
“His unrivaled commitment to competing,” Lazenby said. “And it was every night after he’d finish a game, he was on the plane looking at the game he had just played and then everybody else was long asleep and he’s looking at the next game and what he faces.”
Now Lazenby, along with the rest of his fans around the world, are left with only memories to look back on, wondering what to do next.
“I’m still in shock. It’s already hard. It’s very hard,” Lazenby said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to unpack that starting this week.”